Second District Court of Appeal Issues a Sweeping Opinion in Godwin v. University of South Florida Board of Trustees
August 25, 2016
In the last decade, Florida hospitals have faced a multiplicity of legal theories advanced by the plaintiffs' bar, seeking to hold hospitals legally responsible for the alleged medical malpractice of physicians who are not hospital employees. This week, the Second District Court of Appeal dispensed a welcome dose of reasonableness, issuing a sweeping opinion in Godwin v. University of South Florida Board of Trustees, Case No. 2D14-2588, 2D14-2962 (Fla. 2d DCA Aug. 24, 2016), striking down claims seeking to hold a hospital liable for the actions of independent contractor physicians under the theories of apparent agency and non-delegable duty.
The Godwin court adopted three main holdings. The first, somewhat fact-specific, confirms that section 1012.965 of Florida Statutes defeats a claim for apparent agency seeking to hold a teaching hospital liable for the actions of a medical school employee practicing in the teaching hospital as part of clinical medical education, so long as the documentation requirements of the statute are satisfied.
The second holding confirms that if a hospital's admission paperwork does not contain an express undertaking on the part of the hospital to provide physicians' medical care, no non-delegable duty arises which would make the hospital legally responsible for the actions of those treating physicians regardless of their employment status. It also observes that both section 1012.965 and language in the admission documents informing the patient that the physicians providing care are not employed by the hospital are effective to delegate any duty and discharge any liability that may have otherwise arisen.
The third holding, with broader application for Florida hospitals generally, confirms that the Medicare Conditions of Participation, and specifically 42 C.F.R. § 482.12, do not impose a non-delegable duty on hospitals to guarantee the non-negligence of the medical care provided in the hospital by independent contractor physicians.
The Godwin opinion represents long-awaited appellate approval of the arguments advanced for years by our medical malpractice defense team here at ROIG Lawyers. We are gratified to see those arguments now enshrined in binding appellate authority, and look forward to using the Godwin case to advance our clients' interests and to defend hospitals against claims seeking to hold them liable for the actions of physicians whom the hospital does not employ.
Click here to view the opinion.
For questions, or to discuss this issue in greater detail, please feel free to contact Ed Carbone, head of ROIG Lawyers' Healthcare Practice Group, at ECarbone@roiglawyers.com or (813) 514-1865.