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Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice involves medical mistakes by a health care provider, whether it is a doctor, hospital, nurse, dentist, medical/dental office or staff. When these professionals make a mistake that causes injury to a patient, this is what is commonly known as medical malpractice. This is when someone needs an experienced medical malpractice lawyer.

In Florida, medical malpractice cases are governed by a series of complex statutes known as the Florida Medical Malpractice Act, under Florida Statutes section 766.  These laws form the basis for bringing medical malpractice cases but are just a small part of the law that is involved in malpractice in Florida.  There is a short two year statute of limitations (legal deadline) for bringing malpractice cases in Florida.  There are complex laws and regulations that must be met before even bringing a medical malpractice case in Florida.  It is essential that if you feel you might have a medical malpractice case you should immediately consult a qualified, experienced malpractice attorney.

How big is the problem of medical malpractice in America?

Recent studies have found that as many as 440,000 people are killed each year because of preventable medical errors each year in the United States. (Journal of Patient Safety, Vol 9., No. 3, September 2013.)  In a 2005 study of 39 million patient records, 241,280 deaths during Medicare hospitalizations were attributable to one or more common preventable medical errors. Interestingly, only 1 out of 10 medical mistakes end up being brought as a malpractice case.  In May 2016 Johns Hopkins University reported the results of a study showing that medical mistakes are now the third leading cause of death in the United States.  That is astounding for an industry which claims to be here to heal the sick and injured.

Leighton Law: Miami and Orlando trial lawyers who specialize in medical malpractice cases.

Medical malpractice requires negligence on the part of the health care provider.  Leighton Law specializes in representing victims of medical mistakes. Founding partner John Elliott Leighton is a board certified trial lawyer who is skilled at representing victims of medical mistakes. He has won some of the largest verdicts in settlements in Florida in medical malpractice cases. He is a charter member of the Cooperative Association of Medical Malpractice Lawyers and is a member of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America’s Birth Trauma Litigation Group, Professional Negligence Section, and Medical Negligence Information Exchange Group. He is the current Chairman of The Academy of Trial Advocacy, a national invitation-only association of leading catastrophic injury and death attorneys only representing victims of negligence.

Mr. Leighton has lectured and published extensively in the field of medical malpractice.  Mr. Leighton recently published an article, “Why You Are Safer On The Highways Than In A Hospital: Medical Errors Kill (a lot) More People,” in the 2014 South Florida Legal Guide. The article explains why the health care system is so dangerous to patients and why the civil justice system is the best way to protect victims of medical mistakes. In addition to being listed in The Best Lawyers in America for Medical Malpractice – Plaintiffs, Mr. Leighton was also recently featured as one of the top medical malpractice lawyers in Florida in Orlando Style magazine.

Mr. Leighton recently authored an article on ways to protect yourself from medical malpractice if you have to go to the hospital in the South Florida Legal Guide on “Staying Alive in the Hospital: 10 Tips to Avoid Becoming a Medical Mistake Statistic.”

That article is followed by the “5 Most Common Medical Mistakes and How You Can Avoid Becoming a Medical Mistake Victim,” which provides some suggestions on how to sidestep some of the most common malpractice errors. Mr. Leighton continues to work for victims of medical malpractice in revealing the hidden dangers of shopping center cosmetic surgery offices in “Plastic Surgery Death Exposes Continued Problem of Uninsured Fly-By-Night Plastic Surgery Clinics.”

He has also been asked to author articles and provide insight into medical malpractice litigation and legislation. Recognized as one of the best medical malpractice lawyers in Florida, Leighton authored an article regarding whether medical malpractice experts should be required to be certified in order to render expert opinions in cases. He has continuously fought for patient rights and the ability to have the very best expert witnesses testify for victims of medical mistakes without intimidation from the medical industry. The Daily Business Review profiled this fight with a cover story, “Fighting a muzzle.”

Mr. Leighton often teaches and lectures to other trial lawyers throughout the country about how best to handle and try medical malpractice cases. Some of his recent lectures in the field include:

  • Medical Malpractice Liability for Failure to Admit, Discharge and Transfer,” Holding the Hospital Accountable seminar, National College of Advocacy, Montreal, Canada.
  • Co-Chairman, Litigating Catastrophically Injured Infant Cases seminar, National College of Advocacy, Atlanta, GA
  • “Medical Malpractice: What You Don’t Know May Kill You,” Association of Health Underwriters, Miami, Florida.
  • “Finding and Using Experts in Medical Malpractice Cases,” Association of Trial Lawyers of America Medical Trial Skills College
  • “Negotiation and Settlement Techniques in Malpractice Cases,” National College of Advocacy Medical Skills program
  • Fundamentals of a Hospital Chart – What’s There and What’s Not,” Association of Trial Lawyers of America, Annual Convention, Seattle, WA

Over the past 30 years, Mr. Leighton has become one of the Orlando top personal injury lawyers. He has successfully obtained many multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements for clients in lawsuits involving severe birth trauma, surgical mistakes, failure to timely diagnose, wrong site surgery, medication errors, emergency room mistakes, and disfiguring injuries.

He holds hospitals accountable such as by taking on Baptist Hospital medical malpractice cases, ORMC malpractice cases, and many others.

Previous Medical Malpractice Cases

 Mr. Leighton’s courtroom success in medical malpractice cases is well recognized. In a record-setting trial, Mr. Leighton won a $24.1 million verdict for a young girl who suffered cerebral palsy due to negligence in her delivery. Her mother had been seen by the obstetrician during her pregnancy. She had told him that her prior delivery was by caesarian section because the baby’s head size was too large compared to this woman’s pelvis. The doctor decided that he would have the woman deliver by VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarian). She then began a long labor that lasted over two days. Instead of performing a caesarian section delivery, which would have been safer for all involved, this physician insisted on the vaginal delivery. He used a vacuum extractor (for far longer a period of time than what the manufacturer recommended) and ordered the nurses to perform fundal pressure (pressing on the abdomen to “push” the baby down the birth canal). The end result was that the mother`s uterus was ruptured, causing a loss of oxygen to the baby, nearly killing mother and child. The baby was resuscitated, but not before serious oxygen deprivation caused cerebral palsy. Mr. Leighton worked with this family over a nine-year period, involving two trials and four appeals, to obtain a record-breaking verdict. Shoaf v. Geiling (Seminole County, Florida). (Orlando Business Journal, June 20, 2005.)

Many families trust their cases to Mr. Leighton because of his combined understanding of the complex medical issues, his skill in the courtroom, and his status as a leader among Miami personal injury attorneys. As a result, defendants frequently choose to settle cases before facing a jury. Mr. Leighton recognizes that no two cases are the same, helping clients to determine the most appropriate course of action for their medical malpractice cases. For example, where an out-of-court settlement may be the most prudent choice for one client, a medical malpractice trial may be better for another.

Mr. Leighton has represented many children whose deliveries were performed negligently. Mr. Leighton recently obtained a settlement of $3,750,000 for a child who suffered nerve injuries due to a traumatic delivery in Central Florida. In another, the hospital and physicians failed to recognize that the mother was high risk and had an infection. Instead of immediately delivering the baby, they delayed and even transferred the mother to another hospital before the baby was finally delivered. The delay resulted in oxygen deprivation to the child, resulting in cerebral palsy, developmental delay, and blindness. A confidential settlement was obtained from the hospital and physician. In another case, Mr. Leighton represented the surviving spouse who lost his wife because of a surgical error. His wife delivered their child through caesarian section surgery. The surgeon failed to remove the placenta from the patient after delivery of the baby. Hours later, our client’s wife developed a high fever and dramatic infection which led to her untimely death. A confidential settlement in excess of $1.5 million was obtained to secure the financial stability of this family.

Sometimes emergency rooms are where the medical mistake occurs. Leighton’s skills were used to obtain a $4.3 million recovery for the family of a woman in Chicago, Illinois.  While awaiting treatment for a cyst in her brain, this woman suffered a brain herniation because of a failure to promptly treat the condition, resulting in her wrongful death.  Mr. Leighton handled the case in Chicago and successfully litigated the matter to conclusion, providing this family financial security and the knowledge that procedures at the offending hospital were changed. In another medical malpractice case, Mr. Leighton obtained a $4.75 million recovery for the family of a woman who died after she was not properly intubated in a hospital after she suffered a lost airway.

It has been estimated that half of all hospitalizations result in a medication error. Medication errors frequently result in tragedy.  Mr. Leighton won a $2,750,000 recovery for a woman who was given two medications that were never supposed to be given together, causing her serious injuries.  In another, the hospital gave too much of a commonly administered medication that resulted in severe bleeding.  In yet another case, Mr. Leighton obtained a substantial settlement on behalf of a man who was treated in the emergency room.  The nurse gave him an injection in the wrong place which resulted in a serious neurologic injury.

Often the health care providers do not properly communicate with one another.  Mr. Leighton recovered a $3 million settlement on behalf of a family whose mother died because the surgeon never communicated with the other physicians about the woman’s serious medical condition, and then left town, only to have the woman die because she did not receive needed treatment.  These are precisely the types of preventable medical mistakes Leighton Law lawyers seek to prevent through our civil justice system.  When the errors occur, our goal is to help our clients obtain the very best compensation available.

Mr. Leighton has represented several families who have tragically lost loved ones who died following childbirth.  One serious complication is post partum bleeding which, if unrecognized and untreated, can cause rapid blood loss and ultimately death.  Mr. Leighton has successfully obtained multi million dollar recoveries for several families where the bleeding following delivery led to disseminated intravascular coagulopathy (DIC), a critical bleeding disorder caused by rapid blood loss.

Another type of medical malpractice case handled by Mr. Leighton are those associated with bariatric (weight loss) surgery, also known as gastric bypass surgery.  These complex, major surgeries are often accompanied by organ and vascular perforations or lacerations.  Frequently there is post operative bleeding that is unrecognized.  If there is a perforation in the bowel or intestinal tract, infection or septic shock can cause severe illness or death.  Mr. Leighton has been hired in several bariatric surgery cases throughout Florida as well as Texas, and obtained substantial recoveries for these victims.

Recently Mr. Leighton obtained a $600,000 settlement on behalf of a client who lost vision in one eye when a physician improperly failed to recognize and treat an infection in her eye following corrective eye surgery.  In another recent case, the firm obtained a $230,000 settlement on behalf of a woman with dementia whose hospital care providers failed to prevent her from falling while in their care, resulting in a fracture.  In yet another recent case of neglect, Mr. Leighton obtained a confidential settlement on behalf of a man who sustained a below the knee amputation when doctors and nurses failed to recognize that he had a thrombosis while he was in the hospital and complaining of pain in that location.

Wrong site surgeries are where the actual surgery is performed at the wrong location or on the wrong limb.  Most people think these are rarities, but believe it or not they occur with shocking frequency.  In one case, Mr. Leighton discovered that his client was the second patient in one year one which the orthopedic surgeon had performed wrong leg surgery!  It is because of these repeated mistakes that the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgery has created the “sign your site” program.  Surgeons are supposed to initial the location of the surgical site while the patient is awake and confirm it with all in attendance.  They also have a “time out” before the operation takes place to confirm the type and location of surgery and confirm that correct identity of the patient.  In the case Mr. Leighton litigated with the repeat wrong leg surgery, the surgeon claims to have never heard of the “sign your site” program.

Regardless of the nature of the malpractice, it is critical to review these matters promptly, since every case is governed by a statute of limitations. In Florida there is a short two-year statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases. This means that if you have an ORMC malpractice, Florida Hospital malpractice, or Baptist Hospital medical malpractice case, the case must be brought within that time period or it may be forever barred. And those cases must be brought in the proper venue (location) and against the correct parties. Interviewing and retaining Miami  and Orlando personal injury attorneys early in the process is highly advised. In Orlando and Miami, top personal injury lawyers from Leighton Law are readily available. Contact us today to get started.

To review some representative Medical Malpractice verdicts and Settlements obtained by the firm, click here.

Disclaimer: The information about past verdicts and settlements of the firm’s cases are based on the unique facts of each case. These amounts reflect the gross recovery in each case (before attorneys fees, expenses and medical costs are deducted). Although these results were obtained by our firm, they may not indicate the success or value of any other case as each case is unique. By clicking on Verdicts and Settlements you are acknowledging that every case is different and each case must be evaluated on its own merits. The information contained here has not been reviewed or approved by The Florida Bar.

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