Florida pill mill operator sentenced to six years in prison

A Florida “pill mill” operator was sentenced to six years in federal prison, after prosecutors said he made “exceptional” efforts to help investigators, which led to convictions of other people involved in illegal distribution of prescription drugs.

Pasquale Gervasio who helped run pain clinics in Florida, which were raided in 2011, pleaded guilty to a money-laundering conspiracy. Between March 2010 and June 2011, the clinics distributed over two million doses of oxycodone, a highly addictive painkiller.

Gervasio was facing up to 10 years in prison, but prosecutors recommended his sentence be reduced after he provided help to the prosecution. Their recommendation was followed by U.S. District Judge Daniel T.K. Hurley. Earlier this year, Gervasio provided testimony against his former business partner Richard McMillan, at his trial on state charges. McMillan was convicted and is serving a 35-year sentence in state prison for racketeering and drug trafficking.

Gervasio and McMillan ran a chain of pain clinics known as Total Medical Express. Gervasio provided information to prosecutors and law enforcement that led to arrests and convictions. He also agreed to pay restitution of about $1.6 million. According to court records, he has already turned over funds in excess of $600,000.

The illegal distribution of prescription drugs can cause severe harm to individuals who may be suffering from addiction. Operators of pill mills, in addition to being criminally prosecuted, may face civil lawsuits for money damages filed by people harmed by their actions. Anyone who has been injured because of improper prescription or distribution of medication should contact an attorney to learn more about their rights.

Florida couple file medical malpractice lawsuit over allegedly botched surgery

A Florida couple filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against a medical facility and doctor, claiming that a surgery resulted in nerve damage.

Knud Hostrup and Maria Luzia Hostrup filed the lawsuit against doctor Matthew E. Wells and an orthopedic surgery and sports medicine center May 2, alleging medical malpractice.

The complaint alleges that Mr. Hostrup needed surgery for a right humerus fracture after suffering a fall in his home. The plaintiffs claim that the doctor’s actions caused Mr. Hostrup’s radial nerve to be trapped under a plate used to reduce the fracture, and that permanent and severe nerve damage to his right arm resulted. Metal plates are often used for internal fixation of fractures. Injury to the radial nerve can be a severe injury that may result in weakness and difficulty in moving the hand, wrist or fingers.

According to the complaint, the defendants failed to treat Mr. Hostrup’s underlying condition properly, failed to properly perform a surgical repair of his injuries, and failed to properly supervise, oversee and train the medical center’s staff. The plaintiffs claim the defendants are responsible for the injury.

The plaintiffs are seeking compensatory damages, costs, interest and other appropriate relief available under the law. A jury trial is demanded.

Florida family wins $33.8 million medical malpractice award in brain injury case

A Florida family was awarded $33.8 million in a medical malpractice lawsuit after a judge ruled that a baby’s irreversible brain damage was caused by the decisions of a federally employed doctor.

The baby’s mother was a patient at Jessie Trice Community Health Center in Miami Gardens, Florida when the baby was born on December 2, 2013. Because the clinic is federally funded, the federal government is responsible for paying the award.

The mother testified that she pleaded for a cesarean section, but the doctor attending her labor and delivery refused, and left to attend another delivery. The lawsuit also claimed that the doctor was speaking on the phone with his financial adviser. The baby was not breathing when he was born, and he suffered brain damage due to lack of oxygen, according to court documents. Medical experts from both the plaintiffs and the defense agreed that the brain damage could have been prevented by a cesarean section.

U.S. District Judge Robert N. Scola wrote in his order that the boy, now age 3, has a life expectancy of an additional 9 to 12 years. Judge Scola awarded the mother $3.3 million and the father $1.1 million for their pain and suffering. He awarded $7.6 million for the child’s pain and suffering and $21.7 million for his economic damages. The award was not limited by Florida’s statutory cap, and will be paid in installments by the federal government.

Florida drivers second worst in country for distracted driving

Researchers ranked Florida’s distracted drivers the second worst in the nation.

EverQuote, an online insurance marketplace, collected data from 2.7 million car trips over 230 million miles, through its EverDrive app, which promotes safe driving habits. The app helps users monitor their own speeding and cell phone use while driving. Distracted driving is a major cause of car accidents.

The company said that users of the app use their phones on 38 percent of trips, and exceed the speed limit on 36 percent of them. These numbers may underreport the actual rates of distracted driving and speeding, because people who use the app may be more safety conscious, and they know their speed and cell phone use are being tracked.

The study found that Northeastern drivers speed the most, Midwesterners are the safest drivers overall, and Southern drivers use their cell phones the most while driving. Florida drivers used cell phones on a higher percentage of car trips than in any other state except Louisiana. Drivers in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and South Carolina also used their phones while driving more often than drivers in the rest of the country.

Some of the regional differences may be due to variation in laws regarding cell phone use while driving. Few Southern states have an outright ban on the use of handheld devices while driving. In Florida, texting while driving is prohibited, but it is a secondary offense, which means that an officer must observe drivers break some other law, such as exceeding the speed limit, before they can stop them for texting while driving.

Overall, EverQuote found that 92 percent of U.S. drivers use cell phones while behind the wheel at least some of the time.

Wrongful death lawsuits filed over crash that killed Jose Fernandez and two friends

Wrongful death lawsuits have been filed in Florida by the families of two people who died along with Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez when the boat he was piloting crashed into a jetty.

The accident occurred on September 25, 2016, when the boat hit a rock jetty near Miami Beach at a speed in excess of 65 miles per hour, according to an investigation by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Investigators concluded that Fernandez who was piloting the 32-foot vessel was under the influence of alcohol and cocaine when the crash occurred.

Investigators said that if the 24-year-old all-star had survived, he could have faced charges of vessel homicide, boating while intoxicated, manslaughter and reckless or careless operation. The report concluded without equivocation that Fernandez’s “impairment and manner of operation” caused the crash which resulted in his own death and the deaths of his friends Emilio Macias and Eduardo Rivero.

Attorneys for the families of Macias and Rivero issued a joint statement that although “fault has been determined officially,” the families wish for a swift and amicable settlement, as the accident was a tragedy for all concerned. The lawsuits allege that Fernandez was responsible for the men’s deaths and his passengers were owed a reasonable degree of care.

Florida Supreme Court rejects Daubert standard and same specialty standard for expert testimony in medical malpractice cases

In a February 16 opinion, the Florida Supreme Court stated that it declined to adopt, to the extent that they are procedural, two changes to the Evidence Code: the Daubert amendment and the Same Specialty amendment. Legal observers called the decision a victory for consumers, as both amendments would have imposed stricter controls on expert witness testimony. In rejecting the two changes, the Court cited “grave constitutional concerns” and the recommendation of the Evidence Rules Committee.

Florida’s Daubert amendment was passed by the state legislature and signed into law by Governor Rick Scott in 2013. The law replaced the Frye standard, under which expert testimony is permitted as long as it is generally accepted in its specific field, with the Daubert standard, used by federal courts, under which the trial judge must rule on the reliability of the expert testimony before it can be offered to the jury. Florida’s Constitution provides that the judicial branch has sole authority over procedural rules of court, while the legislature makes substantive law, so the state high court rejected the Daubert standard to the extent that it is procedural.

The Supreme Court also rejected the Same Specialty amendment, which would require an expert witness on the issue of standard of care in a medical malpractice trial to be from the exact same specialty, as opposed to just a similar specialty, as the medical care provider against whom the testimony is offered. In declining to adopt this standard, the court cited the chilling effect that the stricter rule would have on the ability of an injured patient to obtain an expert witness in a medical malpractice lawsuit, thus interfering with the constitutional right of access to the judicial system and a jury trial.

Florida Supreme Court rules medical malpractice lawsuit can proceed

The Florida Supreme Court ruled that a Florida man can pursue his medical malpractice lawsuit against his deceased wife’s primary care physician for her suicide in 2008.

The justices ruled unanimously that the case should go to trial, upholding a ruling by the Second District Court of Appeal in 2014, which reversed the decision of the First District Court of Appeals granting summary judgment to the physician.

Justice Patty Quince said in writing the opinion of the court that the duty to prevent inpatient suicide did not apply to the case, but there was still a statutory duty to treat the patient in accordance with the standard of care.

According to the lawsuit, Jacqueline Granicz had been prescribed an antidepressant but had stopped taking it. The day before she died, Granicz called her physician’s office to report that she had stopped taking the medication due to side effects, and that she had not “felt right,” the lawsuit claims. According to court documents, the doctor prescribed a different antidepressant and said Granicz could pick up a sample of the prescription at the office. Granicz did pick the items up, but committed suicide the following day.

The Florida Supreme Court ruled that because Granicz was an outpatient, there was no duty to prevent her suicide, but the nonexistence of that specific duty does not mean the doctor owed the patient no duty. The Court said that the statutory duty to treat the patient in accordance with a standard of care applied, and the foreseeability of Granicz’s suicide was a matter of fact to be decided by the jury.

Florida family files wrongful death lawsuit against restaurant

A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed by a Florida family against a restaurant where they say their family member ate before dying of salmonella poisoning.

Gary Kidwell, 39, died at Boca Regional Hospital on Feb. 12, 2015, after becoming sick in the fall of 2014. The family said that cultures were performed at the hospital indicated that Kidwell was suffering from a salmonella infection.

Soon after Kidwell was admitted to the hospital in 2014, his sister reported to the Palm Beach County Health Department that Kidwell had recently eaten at a Boston Market restaurant near Boynton Beach, prompting an investigation.

During the investigation of the restaurant, health inspectors found nine violations, including two involving hand washing violations. Investigators witnessed one worker fail to wash his hands and saw a sink designated as a hand-washing sink was used as a “dump sink” instead. Restaurant workers failing to wash their hands is one of the main ways salmonella is spread.

A spokesman for Boston Market said that there is no proof linking Kidwell’s illness to the restaurant.

Kidwell underwent multiple surgeries after developing salmonella sepsis. Salmonella poisoning does not usually result in death. The lawsuit seeks damages in an unspecified amount for Kidwell’s three daughters.

Jury convicts Florida man for ‘pill mill’ operation

A jury convicted a Florida man of 11 felony charges for running a pain clinic that prosecutors called a “pill mill.”

Richard McMillan refused a plea deal of 10 years in prison. He took the stand in his own defense, arguing that his network of pain clinics was a legitimate business. After nine hours of deliberation, the jury convicted him on all counts.

McMillan ran a chain of clinics called Total Medical Express with his business partner Pasquale Gervasio before a statewide drug task force raided the clinics in 2011. Officials from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration said that the clinics, which operated in several locations in Florida, are estimated to have generated almost $13.5 million, by issuing prescriptions and distributing oxycodone to people without proper medical reasons.

McMillan is scheduled to be sentenced by Circuit Judge Cheryl Caracuzzo on the convictions of racketeering, conspiracy and nine counts of oxycodone trafficking. He could face between 25 years and 330 years in prison. In his defense, McMillan and his attorneys said that the clinics did not issue prescriptions to everyone who asked, claiming that 1,274 patients were discharged without being treated.

In addition to facing criminal charges, medical providers may be liable for pharmaceutical negligence if they cause injury to patients by improperly prescribing or distributing medication. If you or a loved one was injured due to a medical mistake or misconduct, contact Joyce & Reyes for a free consultation.

More Florida car accidents caused by road debris

An analysis of Florida crash data shows that car accidents caused by road debris are on the rise.

Car accidents have resulted from drivers hitting objects in the road or swerving to avoid them. In some cases, cars have been hit by debris from trucks with unsecured loads.

In 1998, a 13-year-old girl survived a life-threatening car accident involving road debris. The girl was riding in the passenger seat of her mother’s minivan on a Florida highway when a metal construction rod pierced the windshield and pierced her body three centimeters from her heart. Investigators said they believed the rod fell off a truck.

When paramedics arrived at the scene, they decided to drive the van to the hospital with the girl’s body still pierced by the rod. At the hospital, the rod was cut in half so that the teenager could be taken into the emergency room and it could be removed.

After the accident, community leaders worked with legislators to make driving conditions safer. State laws were changed to create road rangers, the *FHP phone line for reporting debris and easier tracing of 911 calls from cell phones.

Road debris, however, continues to be a dangerous problem. An investigation of crash data in two counties in Florida, by NBC 6, found a 60 percent increase in accidents caused by road debris between 2011 and 2015.

When accidents caused by debris, are the result of negligence, injured drivers may be able to obtain compensation from the parties responsible.