Miguel Diaz sought treatment at Leon Medical Center (LMC) because he was experiencing cloudy vision due to cataracts. Diaz met with Dr. Jonathan Leon-Rosen, an ophthalmologist, who scheduled him for cataract surgery to correct the problem. Unfortunately, there were complications with the procedure that left him blind in the right eye.
Diaz filed a medical malpractice claim in a Miami-Dade circuit court against the medical center. LMC responded by denying responsibility because the surgeon was operating as an independent contractor rather than as a staff doctor. The case proceeded to a jury who found that the facility was liable and rendered a $13 million award for damages.
LMC is a Medicare healthcare provider with seven locations in south Florida that Diaz and his family had been visiting for many years. Esther Diaz, Miguel’s wife, explained that the surgical outcome has “ruined his life”, as he now has difficulty maintaining his balance and has been unable to drive. The jury determined that although LMC was not specifically negligent, the surgeon was functioning as an agent of the organization at the time. The allocation of fault was 80% for LMC and 20% among the surgery center and ophthalmology staff. The facility provided a written statement suggesting they will appeal the ruling based on the physician being an independent provider and to reinforce their commitment to delivering quality medical care to patients.
State documents revealed that malpractice insurers had paid roughly 19 claims on behalf of LMC after cataract surgeries. The suit stated that usually following cataract surgery an antibiotic known as Gills solution is injected into the eyes. Recently the facility had switched to using Gentamicin, which is to be administered topically; however, after this procedure on Diaz, it was injected. Further research showed that at least 14 patients had experienced injuries in eye surgeries at the center in recent years.
Florida law allows for claims against the medical facility when contracted service providers act or appear to be functioning as an employee of the site. LMC has many physicians employed on staff in addition to the undisclosed contracts with many independent physicians. Esther Diaz recalled that during the initial visit with the doctor, he wore a lab coat and an ID badge, both clearly displayed the LMC logo.
Attorneys for the defense said that they have no intention of misleading patients about the employment and contract arrangements they have with many physicians. Meanwhile, the circuit court has decided to pursue the majority of the many malpractice claims involving other patients separately. Dr. Leon-Rosen is apparently no longer providing care within LMC facilities. The Diaz family, and many families of Cuban descent, had relied on LMC for healthcare in the Little Havana area for years; however, many are now considered other available options after hearing the news.