A Florida medical malpractice jury awarded $13 million on August 31, 2017 to an 80-year-old man who suffered blindness in his right eye after an ophthalmologist injected the wrong medication into his eye after cataract surgery at the defendant medical center. The Florida medical malpractice jury found that the ophthalmologist who blinded the man was the apparent agent of the defendant medical center even though the medical center argued that the ophthalmologist was an independent contractor.
The Florida medical malpractice jury determined that the defendant medical center was not negligent but that it was 80% liable to the plaintiff and his wife because the ophthalmologist was the apparent agent of the defendant medical center, and the remaining 20% liability was equally placed on the surgery center where the cataract surgery took place in 2013 and the ophthalmology practice (the plaintiff had settled his Florida medical malpractice claims against the surgery center and the ophthalmology practice in 2015).
The man’s medical negligence claim against the ophthalmologist who performed his cataract surgery was based on the ophthalmologist injecting the antibiotic Gentamicin into his right eye after his cataract surgery; Gentamicin was supposed to be topically applied to the surface of the plaintiff’s right eye instead of injected into the eye. The injected Gentamicin caused the man to suffer pain and blindness in his right eye (the ophthalmologist had performed sixteen cataract surgeries on the defendant medical center’s patients on September 3, 2013, which injured at least nine of the patients, and then performed cataract surgery on twenty-two of the defendant medical center’s patients on September 10, 2013, which injured at least five, including the plaintiff).
The ophthalmologist’s medical malpractice insurance carrier reportedly has paid $750,000 to settle Florida medical malpractice claims filed by nineteen of the ophthalmologist’s cataract surgery patients.
Apparent Agency Claim
The defendant medical center argued that it could not be held liable for the ophthalmologist’s medical negligence committed on its patients because the contract with the ophthalmologist specifically stated that the ophthalmologist was an independent contractor and not an employee or agent of the defendant medical center. The plaintiff pointed to the lab coat worn by the ophthalmologist that contained the insignia of the defendant medical center, the identification badge worn by the ophthalmologist that contained the insignia of the defendant medical center, and the advertisements of the defendant medical center that promoted its network of employed medical specialists, to show the jury that he reasonably believed that the ophthalmologist was employed by the defendant medical center. When considering cataract surgery, the plaintiff had contacted the defendant medical center, where he had obtained medical services provided to him by different medical specialties in the past, which scheduled his appointment with the ophthalmologist, arranged for his cataract surgery, and took care of his post-surgery care.
The Florida medical malpractice jury apparently agreed that through its words and/or conduct, the defendant medical center led the plaintiff to believe that the ophthalmologist who performed his cataract surgery was its employee or agent.
The defendant medical center states on its website that it “has seven locations throughout Miami-Dade County and offers complimentary transportation for your convenience. Each of our Centers offers the latest in modern technology and comprehensive healthcare services under one roof.”
If you or a family member suffered serious injury or other harm that may be due to ophthalmology malpractice in Florida or elsewhere in the United States, you should promptly find a medical malpractice attorney in Florida or in your state who may investigate your ophthalmology medical malpractice claim for you and represent you or your family member in an ophthalmology medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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