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Payas v. Adventist Health System/Sunbelt, Inc.

Florida Court of Appeals, Second District

February 16, 2018

ARMANDO PAYAS, as personal Representative of the Estate of Bernardo Galarza, deceased, and on behalf of the Estate of Ana Galarza, deceased, Appellant,
v.
ADVENTIST HEALTH SYSTEM/SUNBELT, INC. d/b/a FLORIDA HOSPITAL d/b/a CELEBRATION HEALTH; FLORIDA HOSPITAL MEDICAL GROUP, INC. d/b/a ADVANCED MINIMALLY INVASIVE & BARIATRIC SURGICAL CONSULTANTS; EDUARDO PARRA DAVILA, M.D.; FLORIDA HEALTH SCIENCES CENTER, INC. d/b/a TAMPA GENERAL HOSPITAL; MICHAEL ALBRINK, M.D.; MURRAY SHAMES, M.D.; STEVEN GOLDIN, M.D.; JOHN CHIPKO, M.D.; USF HEALTH, INC.; and INTUITIVE SURGICAL, INC., Appellees.

         NOT FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE REHEARING MOTION AND, IF FILED, DETERMINED

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Hillsborough County; E. Lamar Battles, Judge.

          Carlos E. Diez-Arguelles and Maria Tejedor of Diez-Arguelles & Tejedor, P.A., Orlando; and Heather M. Kolinsky and Susan W. Fox of Fox & Loquasto, P.A., Orlando, for Appellant.

          Larry D. Hall and Ryan P. Kopf of Adams Hall Schieffelin & Smith, P.A., Winter Park, for Appellee Adventist Health System/Sunbelt, Inc. d/b/a Florida Hospital.

         No appearance for remaining Appellees.

          MORRIS, JUDGE.

         Armando Payas, as personal representative of the estates of Bernardo Galarza and his wife, Ana Galarza, appeals a final order dismissing with prejudice his fourth amended complaint against Adventist Health System/Sunbelt, Inc., d/b/a Florida Hospital d/b/a Celebration Health. The complaint alleged that Mr. Galarza died from complications following surgery performed by Dr. Parra-Davila at Celebration Health to repair Mr. Galarza's paraesophageal hernia and two subsequent surgeries performed by other surgeons at different hospitals. In this appeal, Payas argues that the trial court erred in dismissing the fourth complaint against Celebration Health with prejudice because it contains sufficient allegations for causes of action for vicarious liability, breach of a nondelegable duty, and negligence. We agree and reverse the decision of the trial court.

         I. Facts

         The following facts are alleged in Payas's fourth amended complaint. In July 2009, Dr. Parra-Davila performed a paraesophageal hernia repair surgery on Mr. Galarza using a surgical robot. Celebration Health provided the surgical suite, medical staff, and the medical equipment, including the surgical robot. During the surgery, part of the surgical robot detached and became embedded in Mr. Galarza's esophagus. As a result, Mr. Galarza developed complications over the following months and years. A second surgery was performed by a different surgeon at Tampa General Hospital in July 2012 to determine the cause of his worsening symptoms, but the surgery was unsuccessful. In January 2013, a third, exploratory surgery was performed at Tampa General Hospital. During that surgery, Mr. Galarza's vena cava vein was ruptured, causing considerable blood loss, cardiac arrest, and ultimately his death. An autopsy revealed the presence of a thin, coiled band encircling the gastroesophageal junction. Payas alleged that this foreign object was part of the surgical robot that became detached during the first surgery in July 2009. Payas also alleged that a foreign object was observed during a CT scan of Mr. Galarza performed in April 2012 prior to his second surgery, although Mr. Galarza was never informed of this discovery.

         Payas named numerous defendants in his lawsuit. Relevant to this appeal are the counts involving the first surgery in 2009 performed by Dr. Parra-Davila at Celebration Health. In count I, Payas alleged a count against Celebration Health for negligence for breach of a nondelegable duty during the first surgery. In count II, Payas alleged a direct negligence count against Celebration Health for negligent maintenance and operation of the surgical robot and training regarding use of the robot prior to the first surgery. In count III, Payas alleged negligence against Dr. Parra-Davila. In count IV, Payas alleged vicarious liability against Celebration Health for the negligence of Dr. Parra-Davila during the first surgery. In count V, Payas alleged vicarious liability against Celebration Health for the negligence of staff during the first surgery. Payas also alleged counts against other defendants relating to the first and third surgeries.

         Celebration Health filed a motion to dismiss Payas's complaint with prejudice, arguing that the fourth amended complaint was Payas's fourth attempt to state claims against Celebration Health. Three prior complaints had been dismissed without prejudice, and Payas had been given leave to amend. Celebration Health claimed that the counts alleged in the fourth amended complaint failed to state proper causes of action, that Payas failed to comply with chapter 766, Florida Statutes (2015), and that the claims are barred by the statute of limitations. After a hearing, the trial court granted Celebration Health's motion and dismissed the counts against Celebration Health with prejudice because it contained "co-mingling of allegations" and the allegations were "still too vague."

         II. Analysis

         We review de novo the trial court's dismissal of Payas's complaint with prejudice. See Meadows Cmty. Ass'n v. Russell-Tutty, 928 So.2d 1276, 1278 (Fla. 2d DCA 2006). For purposes of a dismissal with prejudice, all factual allegations in the complaint must be taken as true and all reasonable inferences should be drawn in the appellant's favor. Wallace v. Dean, 3 So.3d 1035, 1042-43 (Fla. 2009) (quoting Ralph v. City of Daytona Beach, 471 So.2d 1, 2 (Fla. 1983)); Toney v. C. Courtney, 191 So.3d 505, 507 (Fla. 1st DCA 2016). "It is not for the court to speculate whether the allegations are true or whether the pleader has the ability to prove them." Meadows Cmty. Ass'n, 928 So.2d at 1279 (quoting Fox v. Prof'l Wrecker Operators of Fla., Inc., 801 So.2d 175, 178 (Fla. 5th DCA 2001)).

         A complaint must allege "a short and plain statement of the ultimate facts showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.110(b)(2). "[T]he phrase 'ultimate facts' is used to refer to logical conclusions that are deduced from evidentiary facts. Ultimate facts are the final effect of legal reasoning from the evidentiary facts." Philip J. Padovano Florida Civil Practice ยง 7.13 at 246, 246 (2018 ed.). "It is not necessary or even proper ...


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