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Prieto v. Total Renal Care, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

June 18, 2019




         Plaintiff brings this action on behalf of the decedent, Rodolfo Pietro alleging Nursing Negligence and Healthcare Center Liability by Defendant Total Renal Care, Inc. Plaintiff filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 35) on August 31, 2018, arguing, through deposition testimony, that Defendant essentially admitted that it breached its duty to the deceased[1]. Defendant also moved for summary judgment, disputing liability (ECF No. 38). Defendant subsequently filed an Amended Motion for Final Summary Judgment (ECF No. 41). Plaintiff thereafter filed a motion to strike Defendant's expert whose testimony was used in support of Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 50). Defendant thereafter moved to strike Plaintiff's Rule 26(a)(2) Disclosure as Untimely, seeking to exclude Plaintiff's witness as an expert (ECF No. 51).

         After reviewing Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment, Defendant's Response (ECF No. 43), Plaintiff's Reply (ECF No. 44), Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, Plaintiffs' Amended Response (ECF No. 40), Plaintiff's Daubert Motion to Strike Defendant's Expert (ECF No. 50), Defendant's Response (ECF No. 54), Defendant's Motion to Strike Plaintiff's Rule 26(a)(2) Disclosure (ECF No. 51), Plaintiff's Response in opposition (ECF No. 51), the record, and relevant legal authorities, all motions are denied.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Defendant is a renal dialysis center.[2] ECF No. 38, p. 1. Mr. Prieto was a 76-year-old man with various health issues, including an amputated leg. ECF No. 35-1. During the alleged incident, Mr. Prieto was staying at an assisted living rehabilitation center and received consistent dialysis treatments at Defendant's facilities. Id. Since the amputation of his leg, on August 15, 2015, Mr. Prieto's treating nephrologist, doctor Hasan Ali, ordered that Mr. Prieto be transported to and from Total Renal Care via a stretcher. Id.

         On January 2, 2016, the American Services Company (a third-party transportation company) transported Mr. Prieto on a stretcher to Total Renal Care. Id.; ECF No. 35. After Mr. Prieto received his necessary dialysis, he exited the facility via wheelchair. Id. On the way to his nursing home, the transportation van came to an abrupt stop, causing Mr. Prieto to fly forward, out of his wheelchair, sustaining various injuries. Id. Mr. Prieto died six months after the incident. Id.

         Plaintiff moves for summary judgment, arguing that Defendant owed the decedent a duty to ensure that he was transported to and from their dialysis treatment center via a stretcher and on the day of the incident, Defendant breached that duty, allowing Mr. Pierto to leave the facility on a wheelchair, resulting in his death. Plaintiff argues that but for Total Renal Care's failure to send Mr. Prieto to his nursing home via a stretcher, he would not have sustained injuries from a sudden traffic stop.

         Defendant moves for summary judgment, arguing that the transportation service company is the negligent party in this action as they failed to properly secure Mr. Prieto to his wheelchair. Defendant essentially contends that “the lack of properly securing Mr. Prieto, such as the use of a seatbelt harness, is the superseding cause of Mr. Prieto's unfortunate injuries.” ECF No. 38 at 2. In support, Defendant includes an affidavit of an accident reconstruction specialist, who opined that Mr. Pierto's injuries were not a result of his transportation method but the driver's failure to properly secure Mr. Prieto to his wheelchair. See ECF No. 328-5.

         The parties disagree over the following: whether the affidavit Plaintiff attached to her complaint suffices to establish the applicable standard of care in the instant case; whether the medical order by decedent's nephrologist, stating that Plaintiff should be transported via a stretcher, imputes liability to Defendant for transportation purposes; and whether Total Renal Care's duty to Mr. Prieto extends to his transportation by a third-party transportation service company. These are discussed below.


         A. Motions for summary judgment

         1. Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment “shall be granted if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Allen v. Tyson Foods, Inc., 121 F.3d 642 (11th Cir. 1997) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)) (internal quotations omitted); Damon v. Fleming Supermarkets of Florida, Inc., 196 F.3d 1354, 1358 (11th Cir. 1999). Thus, the entry of summary judgment is appropriate “against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

         “The moving party bears the initial burden to show the district court, by reference to materials on file, that there are no genuine issues of material fact that should be decided at trial.” Clark v. Coats & Clark, Inc., 929 F.2d 604, 608 (11th Cir. 1991). “Only when that burden has been met does the burden shift to the non-moving party to demonstrate that there is indeed a material issue of fact that precludes summary judgment.” Id. Rule 56 “requires the nonmoving party to go beyond the pleadings and by her own affidavits, or by the ‘depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file,' designate ‘specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. Thus, the nonmoving party “may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of his pleadings, but must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         “A factual dispute is genuine if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-movin g party.” Damon, 196 F.3d at 1358. When deciding whether summary judgment is appropriate, “the evidence, and all inferences drawn from the facts, must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.” Bush v. Houston County Commission, 414 Fed.Appx. 264, 266 (11th Cir. 2011).

         2. Analysis

         Plaintiff's Complaint is an action for medical negligence against Total Renal. Florida Statute § 766.106(1)(a) defines a claim for “medical negligence” or “medical malpractice” as “a claim arising out of the rendering of, or the failure to render, medical care or services.” J.B. v. Sacred Heart Hosp., 635 So.2d 945, 948-49 (Fla. 1994). To prevail on a Florida medical-negligence claim, a plaintiff must establish the standard of care that the defendant owed, the defendant's breach of the standard of care, and that the breach proximately caused the damages claimed. Furthermore, in order to qualify as a medical malpractice claim, the wrongful act alleged “must be directly related to the improper application of medical services and the use of professional judgment or skill.” Quintanilla v. Coral Gables Hosp., Inc., 941 So.2d 468, 469 (Fla. 3d DCA 2006) (citing Lynn v. Mount SinaiMed. Ctr., Inc., 692 So.2d 1002, 1003 (Fla. 3d DCA 1997)). Moreover, the alleged injury “must be a direct result of receiving medical care or treatment by the healthcare provider.” Id. (citing Goldman v. Halifax Med. Ctr., Inc., 662 So.2d 367, 371 (Fla. 5th DCA 1995)).

         Section 766.102, Florida Statutes, defines the standard of care for medical malpractice claims as “that level of care, skill, and treatment which, in light of all relevant surrounding circumstances, is recognized as acceptable and appropriate by reasonably prudent similar health care providers.” § 766.102(1), Fla. Stat. (2009); Price v. United States, No. 3:09-cv-1165-J-MCR, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 128017, (M.D. Fla. Sept. 10, 2012). A plaintiff bears the burden of proving a breach of the “prevailing professional standard of care for a particular health care provider by the greater weight of the evidence.” Estate of McCall v. United States, 663 F.Supp.2d 1276, 1288 (N.D. Fla. 2009) (quotation omitted). Expert testimony is generally required to establish the standard of care prevalent in a particular medical field. Torres v. Sullivan, 903 So.2d 1064, 1068 (Fla. 2d DCA 2005).

         a. Plaintiff's Motion ...

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