State Medical Malpractice Presuit Procedures Did Not Apply to Claim of Medical Negligence by Passenger Against Doctor and Nurse on Cruise Line Vessel

Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

Landmark Cases

RAND vs. HATCH 762 So. 2d 1001 (Fla. App. 3rd 2000)

PROCEDURAL POSTURE: Petitioners, doctor and nurse, sought certiorari review to the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County (Florida) of the denial of their motion to dismiss the complaint for medical negligence filed by respondents husband and wife. In denying the motion to dismiss, the trial court found general maritime law, rather than Florida law, applied to the petitioners’ alleged medical malpractice.

OVERVIEW: Respondent wife visited the cruise ship’s infirmary to have her blood sugar level checked. Petitioners concluded it was necessary to inject her with insulin. As a result, respondent wife lost consciousness and began convulsing. Respondents sued petitioners, who moved to dismiss on the grounds that respondents failed to comply with the presuit screening requirements of Florida’s Medical Malpractice Act prior to filing in state court. The trial court denied the motion, reasoning there was no presuit screening process required for medical malpractice suits arising from injuries which occurred at sea because they were covered under general maritime law, not state law. The court concluded there was no basis for certiorari review of the trial court’s decision because there had been no departure from the essential requirements of law. The lower court was correct in denying the motion to dismiss because general maritime law applied.

OUTCOME: Petition denied; the trial court properly applied general maritime law, which had no presuit screening requirements, to deny petitioners’ motion to dismiss. A commercial cruise ship and an onboard injury, coupled with the relationship between the passenger/patient and the shipboard medical staff provided the sufficient nexus with traditional maritime activity.