The North Broward Hospital District settled a medical malpractice lawsuit
after losing its defenses due to discovery violations about the death
of a Fort Lauderdale attorney’s father.
The North Broward Hospital District settled a wrongful death lawsuit after
a trial judge sanctioned the hospital operator for gross discovery violations
by throwing out its defenses during jury selection.
Fort Lauderdale attorney Robert W. Kelley of Kelley Uustal filed suit almost
five years ago on behalf of his mother, Mary Kelley, in the death of his
father, the Rev. Robert P. Kelley. Terms of the settlement reached Wednesday
Kelley’s late father suffered a knee fracture and was discharged
from Broward General Medical Center in November 2008. The lawsuit which
also alleged medical malpractice claimed he was sent home without a required
blood thinner and soon after died from blood clots that caused an embolism.
“North Broward Hospital District failed to disclose material information
to the plaintiff regarding this incident. The defendant failed to disclose
the results of its internal investigation … and failed to disclose
that peer review proceedings were under way with respect to Dr. Matthew
Wells and the Broward General Medical Center nursing staff,” Circuit
Judge Carlos Rodriguez said Tuesday in an order granting a motion to strike
the hospital’s pleadings.
It was not until Rodriguez conducted a two-day evidentiary hearing after
starting jury selection a week ago that the documents the hospital had
for years denied existed came to light, Kelley said.
Wells, who was accused of being the most responsible of the three physicians
sued in Kelley’s death, settled the week before trial confidentially.
Rodriguez noted withholding material information adversely affected the
plaintiff’s case because Kelley was preparing for trial under an
He was given the impression there was a miscommunication between Wells
and the nursing staff. It turned out Wells did not order the blood thinner
Arixtra be dispensed for Kelley’s father because he was taking aspirin.
Just before Rodriguez threw out the hospital’s case, the public hospital
district tried to add Wells and another doctor who settled as Fabre defendants.
In turn, Kelley alleged a conspiracy to avoid liability by shifting blame
to Wells after he settled. Had Kelley known the extent of Wells’
potential liability, he said he would not have settled for what he did.
Rodriguez said a conspiracy would be very hard to prove, but the number
of alleged mistakes “lead the court to conclude this was no mistake
but a willful, intentional attempt to conceal the information constitutionally
required and discovery required to be disclosed: compartmentalizing the
information in the claim file and quality assurance department, and then
not asking those departments for the information is hiding the ball.”
Hospital attorney Jonathan P. Lynn of Chimpoulis, Hunter & Lynn in
Davie, said, “The judge’s conclusions seem exceedingly harsh
and unfairly critical of hardworking and dedicated employees of the district
and the hospital.”
He said there was no evidence the defendants knowingly withheld information,
but the sanctions “left us with virtually no alternative but to
negotiate a settlement.”