Sunday, March 14, 2010

Pre-Suit Expert Requirements In Med-Mal Action Pursuant To Section 766.203

In Hunt v. Huppman (2D09-4684), the Second District granted a petition for certiorari because the plaintiff "with medical negligence presuit notice requirements."  The Second District held:
Because Huppman did not provide a corroborating affidavit by a qualified medical expert in compliance with section 766.203(2), Florida Statutes (2007), the circuit court departed from the essential requirements of the law in denying Vein Center's motion to dismiss.
The Court stated:
In June 2008, Huppman served her notice of intent to initiate litigation ("NOI") pursuant to section 766.203(2).1 In the NOI, Huppman alleged that she was injured after undergoing a treatment known as Lumenis One, which involved the use of intense pulsed light ("IPL") equipment to improve the appearance of age spots on her body.  Huppman did not serve a corroborating medical expert opinion with the NOI as required by section 766.203 because Huppman believed Vein Center had waived its right to medical corroboration by failing to provide Huppman with medical records.
Huppman subsequently filed a complaint alleging medical negligence against Vein Center.  Vein Center filed a motion to dismiss in which it argued, among other things, that the complaint should be dismissed based on Huppman's failure to attach a medical expert opinion to the NOI. In response, Huppman maintained that Vein Center waived the medical expert opinion requirement by failing to produce requested medical records. However, Huppman also served Vein Center with the affidavit of Terri Boyert as a corroborating medical expert opinion. 
Vein Center then filed the petition for writ of certiorari that is currently before this court. Vein Center argues that the circuit court departed from the essential requirements of the law in failing to dismiss the complaint based on Huppman's failure to provide a corroborating affidavit by a qualified medical expert in compliance with section 766.203(2). Preliminarily, we note that "the courts of this state have uniformly recognized the availability of certiorari review in cases where the presuit notice requirements of chapter 766 have not been met." Oken v. Williams, 23 So. 3d 140, 144 (Fla. 1st DCA 2009). We review the sufficiency of the corroborating affidavit in order to comply with our duty to enforce the policy behind the presuit notice requirements. Id. at 145. 
Thus, under sections 766.203(2), 766.202(6), and 766.102(5), the written expert opinion that accompanies a claimant's notice of intent must be rendered by a person who (1) is "duly and regularly engaged in the practice of his or her profession," (2) has a degree in health care from a college or university, (3) is a licensed health care provider, and (4) satisfies the expert witness requirements set forth in section 766.102(5).
Boyert's CV does not reflect, nor has Huppman ever asserted, that Boyert has a degree in health care from a college or university. Boyert's CV contains only these vague references to any college education: "Surgical Assistant, TCC College, Tacoma, Washington, 1987" and training at the Eton Medical Institute. Additionally, Boyert's CV does not reflect that Boyert is a licensed health care provider, and Huppman has conceded that Boyert is not licensed. Because Boyert does not meet these two requirements, she is not qualified to render a medical expert opinion under section 766.203(2) regardless of whether she meets the additional requirements of section 766.102(5).
Although Boyert may be adequately trained regarding the manner and method in which the Lumenis IPL equipment was operated based on her experience training staff on the operation of the machine, we disagree with the circuit court's conclusion that she meets the statutory criteria of a presuit witness under chapter 766...The legislature has clearly indicated its intent to narrow the class of person who is qualified to give medical expert opinions by amending the statutory scheme in 2003.
As an alternative argument against granting certiorari in this case, Huppman claims that she has cured any defect in her medical expert opinion by submitting a second affidavit by Dr. Wayne Houston. The Vein Center responds that the affidavit was not timely filed within the applicable statute of limitations and, in fact, was filed after the circuit court entered the order that is now before this court. If this affidavit was submitted within the applicable statute of limitations, it may indeed comply with the presuit notice requirements. However, Dr. Houston's affidavit was not considered by the circuit court, and it would be improper for this court to consider it for the first time on appeal.


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