TALLAHASSEE – The Florida Supreme Court quashed a ruling by the 4th District Court of Appeals that allowed a jury to hear testimony regarding what a doctor at Miami Children’s Hospital would have done to treat a patient transferred to the hospital if she had arrived an hour or two earlier, according to the April 26 opinion.
The Supreme Court said the testimony of the doctor who treated Alexis Cantore at Miami Children’s Hospital was quashed because it was “inadmissible.”
Cantore “suffered permanent brain damage while being treated for hydrocephalus at West Boca Medical Center and Miami Children’s Hospital," according to background information in the opinion.
The Supreme Court quoted the 4th District's background of the case that Cantore had been diagnosed with hydrocephalus two years before the alleged issues arose at West Boca Medical and Miami Children’s. She previously had a blockage removed that kept fluid from building up around her brain. However, subsequent tests showed the problem was returning.
When headaches and vomiting required her to be transported via ambulance to West Boca Medical on July 3, 2008, the opinion said, Cantore was deemed to need urgent attention from emergency room staff at West Boca, rather than being classified as a higher priority emergency patient, based on tests performed and observations recorded as part of the triage process.
After more extensive testing was performed at West Boca, the staff arranged a transfer via helicopter to Miami Children’s. Cantore was listed as being in “stable” condition, according to the opinion.
Despite that classification, the Supreme Court said “during the flight, Alexis suffered an acute decompensation. By the time she landed at MCH…she had suffered a brain herniation, requiring emergency personnel at Miami Children’s to drill into her skull to relieve pressure on her brain.
“However, Alexis suffered permanent brain damage; she has significant mental impairment and must be fed through a tube,” background information in the opinion said. “She will never be able to work or live independently.”
Cantore and her parents filed a lawsuit against both hospitals. One of the expert witnesses the Cantores provided, a pediatric neurosurgeon, gave testimony detailing how the outcome for Alexis Cantore may have been better if pressure on her brain had been addressed sooner.
“Ultimately, the jury returned a verdict in favor of WBMC and MCH,” the Supreme Court said in its opinion. “The Fourth District affirmed, concluding that this court’s decision in Saunders v. Dickens…did not prevent the admission of (the neurosurgeon’s) deposition testimony.”
The Supreme Court said it disagreed with the 4th District’s interpretation of the Saunders ruling.
“It is clear that the purpose of introducing the challenged portions of Dr. Sandberg’s deposition testimony was to break the chain of causation between the alleged negligent conduct of WBMC or MCH, or both, and Alexis’ injuries—i.e., to establish that Alexis still would have suffered permanent brain damage even if the hospitals and their staffs had effectuated a faster transfer from WBMC to MCH,” the Supreme Court said in its opinion.
The 4th District judgment was reversed, and the case was remanded for a new trial.