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Florida Court Refuses To Dismiss Claim For Pregnant Woman’s Death

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An appellate court in Florida refused  today to dismiss a claim for the wrongful death of a young pregnant woman while she was in the care of a mental health facility known as Park Place.  The Defendant, Osceola Mental Health, Inc., sought to have the case thrown out because the woman’s family did not sue under the Florida Medical Malpractice laws.

The patient, 25 year old Farrah Krystle Jean, went to the hospital with complaints of pain.  While there, she was transferred involuntarily to Park Place.  The involuntary commitment was done under Florida’s Baker Act, a law that allows patients to be held against their will when a court, police officer or healthcare provider believes the patient poses a serious risk of imminent harm to herself or others.

Jean complained of severe abdominal pain and other problems over the two days following her confinement. Tragically, she died at the beginning of the third day.  The family filed suit against the facility, alleging that the acts and omissions of the staff caused the death.  The court rejected the facility’s arguments that the Medical Malpractice laws had to be complied with and ruled that the case could go forward.  The court stated that mental patients have rights under the Baker Act, and the facility was not a healthcare provider as defined under the Medical Malpractice statutes.

Virginia Buchanan is a shareholder at Levin, Papantonio.  She has served on the Board of Directions of the Florida Bar Foundation and has been Treasurer of ABOTA, Chairperson of the Civil Process Server Grievance Committee and has been a member of the Chief Judge’s Council on Children. She currently is a member of the Women’s Caucus of the Florida Justice Association.

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