5th District Court of Appeal
Case No. 5D19-1223, 5D19-1919, 5D19-1225, 5D19-1957
May 2020

Rockledge HMA, LLC, et al. vs. Michael S. Lawley, et al.


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Case Details


This unanimous decision determined that a lower court should have dismissed the negligence case instead of allowing it to proceed. The ruling reads:

"Because the claim raised here directly relates to medical care or services, which require the use of professional judgment or skill, [the trial court should not have] determined the medical negligence standard of care is not implicated."

The claim alleges that, in order to increase admission rates and get more money, Lawley was not given a medically necessary transfer to get care elsewhere. The lower court allowed the case to continue because it did not consider it medical-malpractice. This Court was only asked to determine if this is a medical-malpractice case.

This Court finds the complaints are "inescapably linked" to the failure to provide medical care. The claim is centered on a medical judgement of Lawley's condition, and requires a medical expert's opinion. Because of this, the case should be considered medical-malpractice, not simple negligence. The reason behind the doctor's choice to admit Lawley instead of transfer her, financial or otherwise, has no impact on the ruling.

This Court acknowledged that the required procedure for a medical-malpractice lawsuit was not followed. For medical-malpractice lawsuits, a pre-suit notice is required before filing a lawsuit. Lawley, et al. failed to provide this, because they considered it a simple negligence claim. This Court dismissed the case against the doctor and hospital.

Read the full ruling


In 2012 Shannon C. Lawley was admitted to the emergency room. A doctor determined she needed the intensive-care unit (ICU). The hospital did not have ICU beds available. When the doctor admitted her, she was placed in a hallway in the E.R. for 7+ hours. She became unresponsive and died.

She could have been transferred to multiple nearby hospitals with available ICU beds. The lawsuit asserts, in part, the decision to admit Lawley instead of transfer her was financially motivated.

In trial court, the Defendants asked for the case to be dismissed. The trial court judge agreed with Lawley, et al. that it was a simple negligence claim and did not dismiss the case. He said the lawsuit's complaints were not directly related to medical judgement or skill. The medical care provider is appealing that decision.

Related Articles

Original Decision: Wrongful Death Suit Filed, Using 'Outrage' Claim (WUSF, 2016)

Article: Brevard Hospital Backed In Medical Malpractice Dispute (WUSF Public Media, 2020)

Note: Some resources, like the Orlando Sentinel and Florida Today, have a limited number of free articles before putting up a paywall.

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