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Standard Jury Instructions in Civil Cases – Report No. 13-02, No. SC13-1669

On March 20, 2014, the Florida Supreme Court issued a report authorizing changes to standard instruction 501.5 (Other Contributing Causes of Damages) which add a new paragraph, (c), titled Subsequent injuries caused by medical treatment. As the Court noted, the “proposal was prompted by the law that considers the treating doctor’s negligence in rendering medical care to the victim for the initial injuries as part of the consequences caused by the original actor’s negligence that required the medical treatment.” This law stems from the Florida Supreme Court’s decision in Stuart v. Hertz Corp., 351 So. 2d 703 (Fla. 1977). As drafted, the new instruction 501.5(c) “sets out the proposition that if the defendant caused the injury, loss, or damage to the claimant, he or she is responsible for any injury, loss, or damage caused by medical care or treatment reasonably obtained by the claimant.” The foundation for the new instruction is the concept that a wrongdoer is liable for the ultimate result, despite the mistake or even negligence of a physician who later treated the injured party and caused the damage that would have otherwise resulted from the original wrong to increase. Therefore, the new instruction sets forth what had already been established in case law — whether one is injured in an auto accident, slip and fall or from another’s simple negligence, if a doctor later treats the injured individual for the injury that resulted, and causes the injury to worsen, the person who initially caused the harm will be responsible for the increased harm caused by the negligence or malpractice of the doctor.

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