FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., Aug. 2, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Two-year-old Abigail Belzi will never know her mother. Plantation General Hospital accepted responsibility for the untimely death of twenty-four year old Patricia Belzi, who was 33 weeks pregnant when she came to the hospital in August of 2014 with nothing more than shortness of breath.
As a result Florida's tort-reformed medical malpractice laws, the Belzi family had no real choice other than to forego their constitutional right to a jury trial, and accept the hospital's offer to enter into binding arbitration. Pursuant to Florida law, Abigail's non-economic claim in the arbitration for the lifetime loss of her mother's companionship, instruction and guidance was severely capped by Florida Statutes at only $250,000.00.
"Given the unfair cap on non-economic damages, our primary goal in this case," said Bonnie Navin, attorney for the family, "was to creatively build a credible and legal case for the amount of the family's economic losses as a result of Patricia's death." This was difficult, said Navin, because of Patricia's young age, and the fact that she had not yet completed her education in the field - ironically – of nursing.
The arbitration panel consisted of Administrative Judge June McKinney from Tallahassee, retired Circuit Judge, Israel Reyes, from Coral Gables, and attorney, David Prather, from Jupiter. The arbitration, which took place in Fort Lauderdale, lasted for three days, according to Kimberly Wald who assisted Navin in the arbitration. "I think Bonnie did a great job in helping the arbitrators understand and appreciate the immense economic value a woman has as both a mother and a wife," said Wald, "and the expert testimony offered by the plaintiffs on that issue was both compelling and convincing."
On August 8, 2014, Patricia Belzi, presented to Plantation General Hospital with shortness of breath. Eight hours later, she suffered a loss of oxygen and was later diagnosed with a brain injury leaving her in a vegetative state for nearly three months. Doctors failed to recognize her increasing loss of oxygen for so long her brain lacked oxygen leading to a brain injury. Abigail was born by "slash and dash" in the emergency room with no sterility or anesthesia all in an effort to save the baby before losing Patricia. Patricia remained in a vegetative state from August 8, 2014 until she passed on November 18, 2014. Abigail is being raised by her father, Pastor Bernard Belzi, of Fort Lauderdale.
"Although we are satisfied with the award," said Robert W. Kelley, whose firm represented the family, "this unjust one-sided law capping the family's non-economic damages is outdated and just plain wrong." Kelley said he has advised the hospital's attorneys that if the hospital appeals the arbitrators' award, his firm will cross-appeal and ask the appellate court to toss out the cap on non-economic damages as unconstitutional. "On a level playing field," said Kelley, "this would be a ten million dollar case, or more. The hospital better be careful what it asks for."
The arbitration panel unanimously awarded $4,290,622.72 in damages to the family last Friday, July 29, 2016.
Kelley/Uustal is a leading personal injury and medical malpractice law firm in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The firm handles the full range of personal injury and wrongful death cases, and is backed by more than 200 years of experience and a proven track record of success. To learn more about the types of cases the firm handles, please visit www.justiceforall.com.