Kelley Uustal Trial Attorney
October 20, 2018

How Can Immunity Protections Affect Medical Malpractice Lawsuits?

When negligence by a medical professional results in injury, it’s possible to file a medical malpractice claim. These cases involve a plaintiff who establishes proof that a medical professional acted negligently during care, violating his or her duty of care and causing damages. Victims can then receive financial compensation to recover from their injuries.

However, Florida law includes statutes that provide protection for certain institutions, preventing malpractice lawsuits, even in cases that involve damages resulting from medical negligence. Some cases, therefore, may not be eligible for medical malpractice claims.

The Role of Sovereign Immunity

Sovereign immunity is a legal concept that protects government agencies from costly lawsuits and has its origins in British law. In most cases, this immunity extends to federal and state governments, preventing civil and criminal lawsuits in certain circumstances. Florida law maintains sovereign immunity laws but allows for certain types of claims against the state.

This law protects most state government facilities. In 2011, Florida legislature expanded the immunity to cover independent, nonprofit universities that are part of an affiliation agreement and provide patient services at government teaching hospitals. Universities that meet these qualifications also receive protection from lawsuits under the laws of sovereign unity.

The Impact of Sovereign Immunity on Medical Malpractice Cases

In two recent lawsuits, patients who received treatment at the Jackson Memorial Hospital suffered injuries and pursued medical malpractice claims. However, the University of Miami and Jackson Memorial has an agreement with the Miami-Dade County Public Health Trust, which qualifies the university for sovereign immunity under Florida law.

Despite arguments that the immunity violates citizens’ rights to equal protection, due process, and access to courts, both circuit and appeals courts upheld the law updates. As a result, both medical malpractice cases do not qualify for compensation.

Because courts have upheld these laws, it’s likely that sovereign immunity may come into play in future medical malpractice claims. While it doesn’t apply to every case, institutions that meet the requirements of providing patient services as a government teaching hospital and have the proper affiliation agreement in place will qualify for sovereign immunity. Patients injured due to negligence will not be able to file claims, even if the incident would have qualified for a claim were it to happen at another, non-protected institution.

How Could This Affect My Medical Malpractice Case?

As someone who has suffered injury due to medical malpractice, you may find yourself concerned about the validity of your case. What’s important to remember is that most medical institutions do not meet the qualifications for sovereign immunity – and most medical professionals are liable for their negligent actions.

To be eligible for compensation due to medical malpractice, you will need to prove that a medical professional is liable for your injuries. The process involves establishing a duty of care, proving negligence, and connecting that negligence to your injuries. If you can prove these things in court, then you will likely be able to recover compensation for your physical, emotional, and financial damages.

However, proving liability won’t matter if the individual or institution that caused your damages is under sovereign immunity. These laws prohibit filing any form of lawsuit against protected entities. With the precedent established in cases of qualifying institutions, such as with the University of Miami and Jackson Memorial, you will not be able to pursue a claim.

If you know that the responsible entity for your case does not meet the qualifications for immunity, you may proceed with your lawsuit. However, if you’re uncertain, your best step is to consult with an injury attorney. An experienced medical malpractice lawyer will be able to evaluate your case and let you know if you can pursue your right for compensation.

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