A plastic surgeon who was hit with a $43 million judgment in a case over the death of a patient following liposuction can pursue a bad faith claim against his medical malpractice insurer, a Florida appeals court ruled Tuesday, upending a lower court decision.
Originally, physician Mohamad R. Samiian performed a liposuction procedure in 2004 on a patient, who later that evening suffered a cardiac arrest and died. The man was a Jacksonville philanthropist and businessman. The man’s estate gave notice in 2005 that it would file a medical-malpractice lawsuit. Samiian’s insurer, First Professionals Insurance Co., agreed to settle and delivered a check to the estate’s attorney for the policy limits. But later, an attorney representing Samiian offered to submit the case to binding arbitration, with the offer not contingent on a limitation of damages. Ultimately, an arbitration panel awarded $35.3 million to the estate and the man’s survivors. Samiian in 2010 filed a case against the insurer, arguing it had acted in “bad faith” in handling the medical-negligence claim. A Duval County circuit judge sided with the insurer, granting its motion for summary judgment. Samiian appealed to the First District Court of Appeals who accepted the appeal. The court handed down their opinion recently which found that even though it was not deciding the merits of the case, they rejected the circuit judge’s summary-judgment decision and said Samiian could pursue bad-faith arguments related to the decision to go to arbitration.
“If FPIC (the insurer) is legally responsible for the offer to arbitrate — a question we do not decide — there are also material issues of disputed fact regarding whether the offer to arbitrate was in the best interest of Dr. Samiian, and whether waiving all defenses to liability while an offer to settle for policy limits was pending served his, as opposed to the insurer’s interests,” said the ruling, written by appeals-court Judge Robert Benton and joined by judges Lori Rowe and Simone Marstiller.
Click here to read the entire opinion: http://www.1dca.org/opinions/most_recent_written.html