FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE MOTION FOR REHEARING AND
DISPOSITION THEREOF IF FILED
appeal from the Circuit Court for Okaloosa County. Terrance
R. Ketchel, Judge.
Alistair McKenzie of the McKenzie Law Firm, P.A., Pensacola,
Andrew Talbert and Lindsey M. Romano of Quintairos, Prieto,
Wood & Boyer, P.A., Pensacola, for Appellees.
Vance appeals a final order dismissing her amended complaint
with prejudice for failure to comply with the presuit
requirements for medical negligence claims and for failure to
comply with the applicable statute of limitations. The narrow
issue presented by this appeal is whether Ms. Vance's
amended complaint sounds in ordinary negligence rather than
medical negligence. Because we agree with Ms. Vance that it
is the former, we reverse and remand for further proceedings.
amended complaint alleged that Ms. Vance visited Dr. Zachos,
a urologist, at his office to have a catheter removed. In the
examination room, the doctor provided a step for Ms. Vance to
use to ascend onto the examination table. The doctor then
moved the step away and performed the procedure. After the
procedure, the doctor told Ms. Vance to go to the front desk
and schedule another appointment for the following week. The
doctor then left the examination room. Ms. Vance began to
descend from the examination table, but because the step had
been removed, she fell onto the floor. She alleged that the
failure to replace the step created a known dangerous
condition, and the doctor knew or should have known that he
had not replaced the step for her. She claimed she suffered
serious and permanent injuries due to her fall.
evaluating whether a complaint sounds in ordinary or medical
negligence, courts must determine from the allegations
"whether the claim arises out of the rendering of, or
the failure to render, medical care or services."
Doe v. Baptist Primary Care, Inc., 177 So.3d 669,
674 (Fla. 1st DCA 2015) (citations omitted); see
also § 766.106(1)(a), Fla. Stat. (2011) (defining a
claim for medical negligence or malpractice). The core
inquiry is "whether the claim relies on the application
of the medical malpractice standard of care." Holmes
Reg'l Med. Ctr., Inc. v. Dumigan, 151 So.3d 1282,
1286 (Fla. 5th DCA 2014). Merely "labeling allegations
as 'ordinary negligence' is not dispositive."
Shands Teaching Hosp. & Clinics, Inc., v. Estate of
Lawson, 175 So.3d 327, 331 (Fla. 1st DCA 2015) (en
banc). "Courts must look beyond the legal labels urged
by plaintiffs and 'must[ ] apply the law to the
well-pleaded factual allegations and decide the legal issue
of whether the complaint sounds in simple or medical
negligence.'" Id. (alteration in original)
(quoting Dr. Navarro's Vein Ctr. of Palm Beach, Inc.
v. Miller, 22 So.3d 776, 778 (Fla. 4th DCA 2009)).
have explained before, the mere fact that "a negligent
act occurred in a medical setting doesn't make it medical
negligence." Lawson, 175 So.3d at 332; see
e.g., Tenet St. Mary's Inc. v. Serratore, 869 So.2d
729 (Fla. 4th DCA 2004) (medical center employee
inadvertently kicking a patient); Lake Shore Hosp., Inc.
v. Clarke, 768 So.2d 1251 (Fla. 1st DCA 2000)
(patient's slip and fall in hospital room); Broadway
v. Bay Hosp., Inc., 638 So.2d 176 (Fla. 1st DCA 1994)
(collapse of hospital bed). We have described ordinary
negligence as something jurors can resolve "by referring
to common experience, " whereas medical negligence
requires "the help of experts to establish what is
acceptable, appropriate, and prudent" because jurors
cannot determine through "common experience"
whether medical standards of care were breached.
Lawson, 175 So.3d at 332-33.
there is no doubt that the line between ordinary and medical
negligence may at times be difficult to draw, at this stage
of the proceedings we do not believe Ms. Vance's claim
sounds in medical negligence. Jurors can use their common
experiences to evaluate the act of placing and removing a
step used by someone to get on and off a table, just as they
could evaluate the act of pulling a chair out from under
someone about to sit down. We note that our decision today
rests solely on the allegations within the four corners of
the amended complaint and should not foreclose a later
challenge should the case morph into a medical negligence
claim. Because we conclude that the amended complaint alleges
a claim of ordinary negligence, we reverse and remand for