PALM BEACH COUNTY — The 4th District Court of Appeal has reversed and remanded proceedings in a case involving a widower and a doctors' network organization, according to a May 31 opinion.
MDVIP Inc. filed an appeal after a lower court ruled in the favor of Robert Beber, the widower of the original plaintiff, Joan P. Beber.
Joan Beber joined MDVIP, a “concierge medicine market” that connects patients with doctors for a fee of $1,500, to continue receiving regular treatment from her physician, Dr. Metzger, who was her doctor before he joined the program. Metzger was also listed as a defendant in the earlier stages of the trial, but only MDVIP was listed on appeal.
Issues sparked after Joan Beber suffered life-altering injuries. A judge ruled that Metzger was negligent because her injuries “went undiagnosed and misdiagnosed," and Joan had to receive an above-the-knee amputation. She sued MDVIP for fraud and negligence. She died of later cancer, an illness unrelated to her leg injury. Her husband, Robert Beber, took over as the plaintiff for the case against MDVIP.
MDVIP motioned for a directed verdict on the plaintiff’s fraud accusations against it. The trial court dismissed the move before a jury sided with Robert Beber on all of his claims, according to court records. He was granted $8.5 million for noneconomic damages, which was decided under the noneconomic damages cap. The trial court also ruled in favor of the plaintiff in his request for a directed verdicts on claims of apparent agency and joint venture.
Both Robert Beber and MDVIP filed an appeal as Robert Beber wanted to fight the damages cap ruling.
The appeals court overturned the trial court’s ruling in the fraud claim that the lower court ruled in the plaintiff’s favor. It said the plaintiff did prove that the physician did not give Joan Beber the proper treatment. But didn’t provide enough evidence that MDVIP was aware of it.
The plaintiff also could not prove that MDVIP was aware of any statements about its physician-selection process being false or that the plaintiff relied on MDVIP when selecting a physician. Plaintiff also failed to prove that MDVIP was fraudulent when it stated that sixty-five percent of its patients would be less likely to be hospitalized. Considering this, the district court reversed the trial court’s decision for the fraud case.
When it came to the plaintiff’s motion for directed verdict on apparent agency and joint venture grounds, the district court reversed that move as well and remanded a new trial. Although the plaintiff said that MDVIP had the power to end its relationship with Metzger because he didn’t meet requirements, the appeals court reversed that because a jury could have decided that MDVIP had no direct control over Metzger. The court said that since there’s a chance the directed verdicts impacted the jury, the verdict could not be considered “harmless.”
The appeals court affirmed the trial court’s decision when it came to MDVIP’s appeal on the amount of the damages.