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Association for Retarded Citizens- Volusia, Inc. v. Fletcher

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Plaintiff sent her disabled son to Defendant summer camp. While at the camp, Plaintiff’s son suffered a seizure while in the swimming pool and had to be taken to the hospital to receive medical treatment. The son died. Plaintiff brought wrongful death suit against Defendant and granted Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment. Defendant appealed.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    A defendant, whose negligence resulted in plaintiff’s initial injury, may not defend a claim of negligence by showing that plaintiff’s injury was worsened by negligence in medical treatment received.

    Facts.

    Sandra Fletcher (Plaintiff) sent her son, Nathan, to summer camp operated by the Association for Retarded Citizens- Volusia, Inc. (Defendant). While swimming, Nathan suffered from a seizure and needed to be resuscitated and taken to the hospital for medical treatment. Due to his respiratory injuries, Nathan died nine days later. Plaintiff brought a negligence, wrongful death suit against defendant to recover damages. The trial court granted Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment but on a rehearing of the argument, Defendant presented testimony that Nathan could have been treated for the injuries he sustained at a closer medical facility. Trial court affirmed plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment and Defendant appealed.

    Issue.

    Whether a defendant, whose negligence resulted in plaintiff’s initial injury, may defend a negligence claim by showing that a plaintiff’s injury was worsened by negligence in medical treatment.

    Held.

    No. A defendant whose negligence caused a plaintiff’s initial injury may not defend a claim of negligence by making a showing of the further aggravation of the injury by negligent medical treatment. In Emory v. Florida Freedom Newspapers, 686 So. 2d 486 (Fla. 4th DCA 1997), the court held that a tortfeasor’s negligence in causing a plaintiff’s original injury proximately caused the damages to the plaintiff after subsequent negligent treatment. Therefore, the initial tortfeasor is liable for the total amount of the damages, which plaintiff has incurred. Here, Defendant argued that even though its negligence caused Nathan’s injuries, Nathan’s injuries were caused by negligence in his medical treatment. Defendant argued that if Nathan received medical treatment at a closer facility, he would have more of a chance to survive. However, Defendant did not offer any evidence to prove this assertion. Even if Nathan received negligent medical care, Defendant would still be liable for Plaintiff’s damages because of the rule against apportioning initial and subsequent acts of negligence. Thus, the trial court’s summary judgment in Plaintiff’s favor is affirmed.

    Discussion.

    A plaintiff who brings a wrongful death suit against the initial tortfeasor may recover all damages from said tortfeasor if evidence was not provided suggesting subsequent tortfeasor’s negligence contributed to the death and the tortfeasor was the initial cause of the harm suffered by plaintiff.



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