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Court Backs Patient In Malpractice Release Dispute

A state appeals court Wednesday cleared the way for a medical-malpractice case to move forward, rejecting arguments that a doctor was shielded from the lawsuit because of a release signed by a patient.

A three-judge panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal overturned a St. Lucie County circuit judge's ruling in favor of physician Michael Paul and a medical practice. Myra and Ronald Brooks filed a negligence lawsuit in 2013, alleging that Myra Brooks' ureter was cut during a spinal-fusion surgery, according to Wednesday's decision.

But the patient had signed a release that said, in part, she agreed not to file a lawsuit “for any reason. My reason for doing this is that I realize that Dr. Michael D. Paul and his staff will do the very best to take care of me according to community medical standards.”

The circuit judge entered a summary judgment in favor of the doctor, finding that the release was “unambiguous” in releasing claims for negligence. But the appeals-court panel Wednesday issued an eight-page opinion saying the release, which included three sentences, was “rife with ambiguity and uncertainty.”

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