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Florida Fourth DCA reverses trial’s dismissal of medical negligence complaint against defendant doctor, finding that trial court’s ruling that pre-suit notice to codefendant hospital could not be imputed to doctor was erroneously based on evidence outside the four corners of the complaint

On September 8, 2021, in Rhiner v. Koyama, No. 4D20-2196, the Florida Fourth DCA reversed the trial court’s dismissal of a defendant doctor from the plaintiff’s medical negligence complaint which was filed against both doctor and the hospital where the allegedly negligent act occurred. The trial court granted the doctor’s motion to dismiss the complaint after concluding that the plaintiff, a Florida state prison inmate acting in a pro se capacity, had not properly followed the statutory procedure set forth in Fla. Stat. § 766.106(2)(a) for providing pre-suit notice to the doctor as a potential defendant. The trial court determined that the plaintiff’s pre-suit notice to the hospital did not impute notice to the doctor because a legal relationship between the two did not exist and the doctor had merely been granted privileges to use the hospital’s facilities. As a separate basis for dismissal, the trial court determined that the plaintiff had not attached to the hospital’s notice a proper authorization for the release of medical records. The Fourth DCA noted that neither determination by the trial court was based on any of the allegations within the complaint and that trial court in effect went beyond the four corners of the complaint to make factual findings based on assertions and exhibits attached to the plaintiff’s response to the doctor’s motion to dismiss. Since the allegations in the underlying complaint, if treated as being true, were sufficient to withstand a motion to dismiss, the Fourth DCA concluded that the dismissal of the complaint was premature, citing See King v. Baptist Hosp. of Miami, Inc., 87 So. 3d 39, 43 (Fla. 3d DCA 2012) (holding that it was premature for the trial court to grant the defendant’s motion to dismiss the medical malpractice action because the plaintiff’s complaint and attachments thereto, if taken as true, established that a legal relationship existed to impute pre-suit notice to the defendant).