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University of Miami v. Francois

Florida Court of Appeal, Third District

December 21, 2011

UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI, Appellant,
v.
Nelson FRANCOIS, etc., Appellee.

Page 361

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 362

Fowler White Burnett, and Marc J. Schleier, and Helenmarie M. Blake, for appellant.

Justine S. Anagnos, and Loreen I. Kreizinger, Fort Lauderdale, for appellee.

Before ROTHENBERG, LAGOA, and EMAS, JJ.

EMAS, J.

The issue presented is whether the release and settlement agreement, entered into between Plaintiff and an initial tortfeasor, clearly reserved Plaintiff's cause of action against a subsequent tortfeasor. We reverse, holding that the release and settlement agreement in this case failed to do so, thereby barring Plaintiff from pursuing a claim against the subsequent tortfeasor.

FACTS

On July 24, 2006, twenty-six-year-old Caroline Francois was admitted to North Shore Medical Center (" North Shore" ) to give birth to her third child. Caroline Francois' blood pressure was severely elevated after she delivered a healthy baby. On July 26, 2006, from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Mrs. Francois was under the care of Angelica Martinez, R.N. (" Nurse Martinez" ), an employee of Medical Staffing Network Holdings, Inc. (" Medical Staffing" ), which provided nursing staff services to North Shore. Nurse Martinez failed to treat Mrs. Francois' spiking blood pressure and, as a result, Mrs. Francois suffered a brain bleed, requiring her to be placed on life support.

Shortly thereafter, Robert Kerns, a coordinator of the University of Miami's Life Alliance Organ Recovery Program (" the University of Miami" ), entered Mrs. Francois' hospital room without her husband's consent; wrote a physician's order pronouncing Mrs. Francois brain dead (despite the fact that Kerns is not a physician); ordered the removal of Mrs. Francois from life support without her husband's consent and while she continued to exhibit spontaneous respiration. She died on July 27, 2006.

In July of 2008, Nelson Francois (" Francois" ), Mrs. Francois' husband, filed a

Page 363

wrongful death action against Nurse Martinez, Medical Staffing, and the University of Miami (vicariously for the actions of Kerns). On January 5, 2010, after entering into a settlement with Nurse Martinez and Medical Staffing, Francois executed a Release and Settlement Agreement. In relevant part, that Agreement released Nurse Martinez and Medical Staffing from

any and all claims, including bad faith claims, appellate claims, demands, damages, actions, causes of action, suits at law or in equity, or sum of money arising from any act or occurrence, or on account of any and all personal injury, death, disability, property damage, loss or damage of any kind whatsoever, known or unknown, already sustained or which may be hereafter sustained or allegedly sustained in consequence of any incidents, casualties, events, acts or omissions to act, from the beginning of time down to the date hereof, arising out of or resulting from the incidents occurring at the North Shore Medical Center, while Caroline Francois was ...

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