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$19,200,000 Awarded to a Florida girl who suffered profound developmental problems when a hospital administered the wrong dosage of medication

Case: Smith v. Lee Memorial Health Systems

Parties:
Plaintiff (Appellee) - Parents of Kiarra Smith
Defendant (Appellant) - Lee Memorial Health Systems

Court: Florida Court of Appeals, Second District

Procedural History

Kiarra Smith’s parents brought suit against Lee Memorial Health Systems for overdosing Kiarra on nutrients 100 times more powerful than the doctor prescribed only days after her birth. The injuries alleged in the complaint included permanent neurological damage, lack of normal head growth, developmental delay, spastic quadriparetic cerebral palsy, and visual inattentiveness. In its answer to the complaint, Lee Memorial admitted that it had fallen below the standard of care in the preparation of the nutritional solution. But Lee Memorial also denied that its failure to comply with the standard of care had caused any injury to the Smiths’ daughter. Lee Memorial also asserted eighteen affirmative defenses. The Defendant sought a protective order to prohibit the Smiths’ counsel from having communications outside the presence of Lee Memorial’s counsel with Kiarra’s treating physicians, who are employed by Lee Memorial. The circuit court entered an order denying the requested protective order, and Lee Memorial appealed, looking to quash the circuit court’s order.

Summary of Facts

In July 2007, the Smiths’ daughter was born prematurely in a hospital operated by Lee Memorial. The child was immediately admitted to the hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). While in the NICU, the child received neonatal parental nutrition through a central venous line. The nutrition administered by hospital staff was 100 times more powerful than the doctor prescribed. After the prescription mistake, Kiarra Smith went into cardiac arrest. She now suffers from cerebral palsy and is blind.

Outcome at Trial

The jury found the hospital liable for the prescription mistake made and awarded Kiarra Smith and her family $19.2 million.

Issues on Appeal

Whether the lower court’s denial of Defendant’s protective order to prohibit the Smiths’ counsel from having communications outside the presence of Lee Memorial’s counsel with Kiarra’s treating physicians, who are employed by Lee Memorial was proper.

Appellate Court Holdings

The Florida Rule of Professional Conduct 4-4.2 does not limit the Smiths’ attorneys from communicating with Kiarra’s treating physicians despite the treating physicians’ employment by Lee Memorial. The circuit court did not depart from the essential requirements of the law in declining to enter the requested protective order. Accordingly, the Defendant’s petition for a protective order was properly denied and Plaintiff’s counsel could discuss Kiarra’s treatment with her doctors.

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