When Is a Fall from a Bed or Table Ordinary versus Medical Negligence? Courts Wrestle with the Question

February 12, 2020 | Strategic Insights for Health System


Two recent cases from different Florida courts of appeals illustrate the difficulty many courts have in determining whether some types of falls in healthcare settings represent ordinary negligence or medical malpractice. This distinction matters because states typically require plaintiffs bringing medical malpractice claims to meet certain requirements (e.g., special notice requirements, presuit investigation by the defendant, expert affidavit that the suit is meritorious, alternative dispute resolution) before their suits may proceed. Medical malpractice suits also require medical expert testimony.

In one case, Florida's Fourth District Court of Appeals held that the claim of a hospital patient who fell when a nurse helping him out of bed answered her phone was a medical malpractice claim. When the patient was admitted to the hospital for medical procedures, the hospital classified the patient as a "fall risk." The day after his admission, a nurse was transferring the patient out of bed so he could use the bathroom. While she was helping him out of bed, she answered her phone. The...

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