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Simmons v. Jackson Memorial Hospital

Florida Court of Appeals, Third District

August 1, 2018

Craig Simmons, Appellant,
v.
Jackson Memorial Hospital, etc., et al., Appellees.

         Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

          An Appeal from the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County, Lower Tribunal No. 15-23355 Jorge E. Cueto, Judge.

          Akbar Law Firm, P.A., and Mutaqee N. Akbar and Brandi J. Thomas (Tallahassee), for appellant.

          Abigail Price-Williams, Miami-Dade County Attorney, and Korissa Lepore, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee Public Health Trust of Miami-Dade County d/b/a Jackson Memorial Hospital.

          Before ROTHENBERG, C.J., and SUAREZ and SCALES, JJ.

          SCALES, J.

         Appellant Craig Simmons, the plaintiff below, appeals a circuit court order granting appellee, the defendant below, Jackson Memorial Hospital's (the "Hospital") motion to dismiss Simmons's amended complaint with prejudice. We reverse the trial court's dismissal order because the allegations in Simmons's amended complaint do not establish, as a matter of law, that Simmons's lawsuit against Hospital is a claim for medical malpractice that requires compliance with the notice provision of section 766.106 of the Florida Statutes.

         I. Facts and Procedural Background

         Simmons was a resident psychiatric patient at a facility operated by Hospital. On October 11, 2013, another resident psychiatric patient, Gerald Allen, came into Simmons's room and beat Simmons with a metal handrail that Allen had removed from a hallway wall of the hospital. Simmons suffered injuries to his face and head. Simmons sued Hospital for negligence, and in his multi-count amended complaint, [1] Simmons alleged that Hospital had an affirmative duty both to (i) provide security to Simmons, and (ii) train its staff to recognize and address emergency situations such as the assault on Simmons. Simmons alleged that Hospital breached these duties by failing to correct the situation before the assault on Simmons occurred, and by failing to properly train its staff members to provide proper supervision and control of their psychiatric patients.

         Hospital moved to dismiss Simmons's amended complaint, asserting that, irrespective of how Simmons's counts were labeled, Simmons's claims were actually medical malpractice claims, and that dismissal, therefore, was required because Simmons did not provide Hospital with the pre-suit notice required by section 766.106(2)(a) of the Florida Statutes.[2] Focusing on both the allegations of Simmons's amended complaint and the relevant statutory language of Florida's medical malpractice act, chapter 766 of the Florida Statutes (2013), Hospital argued that (i) Simmons's complaint - alleging Hospital's failures of security, supervision and training - essentially asserted a "breach of the prevailing professional standard of care," § 766.102(1), Fla. Stat. (2013); and (ii) Simmons's alleged damages arose "out of the rendering of, or the failure to render, medical care or services." § 766.106(1)(a), Fla. Stat. (2013). These allegations, according to Hospital, were sufficient to bring Simmons's claim within the ambit of chapter 766, requiring compliance with chapter 766's conditions precedent.

         Agreeing with Hospital's argument, the trial court granted Hospital's motion, and dismissed Simmons's amended complaint with prejudice. Simmons timely appealed.

         II. Standard of Review

         "The determination of whether a complaint alleges a claim for medical malpractice is a legal one and is, therefore, reviewed de novo." Nat'l Deaf Academy, LLC v. Townes, 242 So.3d 303, 308 (Fla. 2018). "Because of the statutory restrictions and requirements that apply only to medical malpractice claims, any 'doubt' as to whether a claim is for ordinary negligence or medical malpractice should be 'generally resolved in favor of the claimant.'" Id. at 309 (quoting J.B. v. Sacred Heart Hosp. of Pensacola, 635 So.3d 945, 947 (Fla. 1994)).

         III. ...


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