Medical malpractice cases usually involve negligence in the context of providing ordinary medical care. But there are instances when malpractice is just part of a larger offense to a victim’s dignity and basic human rights. A recent Florida appeals court decision in a case that has taken nearly two decades to resolve illustrates the lengthy road some victims must travel to obtain justice.
Hospital Liable for Forcibly Drugging Pregnant Woman
In February 1997, a pregnant woman returning to the United States from Jamaica was detained at Fort Lauderdale International Airport. U.S. Customs officials falsely believed the woman was concealing illegal narcotics on her person. According to court records, the officials made this determination based solely on the fact the woman “exhibited signs of nervousness.”
After a search of her belongings and a pat-down failed to uncover any drugs, Customs officials handcuffed the woman and took her to a nearby hospital where she was forced to undergo an invasive physical examination. Doctors administered a laxative which forced the woman to undergo several bowel movements. Once again, no drugs were found, and the woman was ultimately released from custody.
Unfortunately, the woman suffered a number of medical complications following her ordeal and ended up delivering her child nearly three months prematurely. The woman subsequently sued a number of parties, including the doctors who administered her the laxative. As it turned out, the laxative “had not been tested on pregnant women and was not recommended for their use except when medically necessary,” according to testimony presented at trial.
In June 2014, more than 17 years after the incident, a Miami-Dade jury awarded the woman $128,700 in damages against the hospital. This was actually the the third time the case was presented to a jury. There were two previous mistrials. The first mistrial came after one of the defendants, a doctor at the hospital, was found to have engaged in multiple conversations with trial witnesses outside of the courtroom but within hearing distance of some jurors. The trial judge not only declared a mistrial but imposed sanctions on the doctor for his misconduct. (The doctor was subsequently dismissed from the underlying medical malpractice lawsuit during the third and final trial.)
In April 2016, the Florida Third District Court of Appeal affirmed the trial judge’s decision to sanction the doctor. The appeals court noted that the doctor’s “misconduct was willful, deliberate, and intentional and constituted a violation of the trial court’s instruction not to discuss trial matters with any witness or party.” Accordingly, the doctor was ordered to compensate the victim for the attorney’s fees she incurred in preparing for the first trial.
Have You Been a Victim of Medical Malpractice?
This terrible case illustrates why it is essential to work with an experienced Clearwater medical malpractice attorney. You need someone on your side who understands the court system and is prepared to stand up for your rights when a defendant tries to break the rules. Contact the Law Office of Paul B. Genet, P.A., if you have been injured due to medical negligence and require immediate legal assistance.
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