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Medically Stable or not? It’s a jury question!

June 26, 2012
Bonnie Navin

Medically Stable or not: It’s a jury question!
The First District Court of Appeal, on June 21, 2012, held in University of Florida v. Marguerite Stone, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Ronald Stone, that the Good Samaritan Act, found at Florida Statute 768.13 (2003), is in most cases a factual dispute left to the auspices of the jury to decide.
The lower court determined the Good Samaritan Act did not apply and granted Appellee’s motion for directed verdict as to the inapplicability of the heightened standard of proof required under the Act, which is reckless disregard.
Stone presented at 12:45pm to the Emergency Room at the University of Florida Medical Center for severe stomach pain and vomiting. He received IV fluids and various tests. It was determined he would need surgical intervention thus a transfer was ordered to Alachua General Hospital. In preparation of same, it was determined he should have a CT scan first because it would be faster than obtaining one at the subsequent hospital. The CT scan indicated a severe problem existed such that the radiologist noted that it was “worrisome for gastric outlet obstruction” a condition which is serious and can be life threatening. Despite this diagnosis, the subsequent hospital who received the patient at 6:30pm, placed the patient on the surgical floor and sought surgical consult for the next morning. Stone went into cardiac arrest at 11:39pm and was transferred to the ICU where he died the following morning at 9:00am after arresting a second time.
In Stone, the determinative issue was whether, at the time the care was provided to Mr. Stone, at Alachua General Hospital, he was stabilized and capable of receiving medical treatment as a nonemergency patient. If so, the heightened standard of proof (reckless disregard) in the Good Samaritan Act does not apply; if not, the Act applies.