Popular Medical Center Responsible for Physician’s Poor Practice Procedures
Miguel Diaz, 80, of Miami Beach is a Cuban immigrant who relocated to South Florida back in 1973. The elderly man’s eyesight became blurry from cataracts in 2013. So, he decided to turn to his healthcare provider, Leon Medical Centers, which is one of South Florida’s most popular Medicare clinics. Leon has seven locations in the Miami-Dade County and offers many practice options under one roof, including physicians, dentists, optometrists and pharmacists.
Diaz scheduled an appointment with an ophthalmologist and set up cataract surgery for September 10, 2013. Things should have gone smoothly, but instead, the man was blinded in one eye following the procedure and filed a medical malpractice lawsuit. Leon responded by discrediting the doctor who performed the surgery, Dr. Jonathan Leon-Rosen, claiming he was an independent contractor and not a staff physician.
On August 31, a Miami jury determined that Leon Medical Centers had acted as if Dr. Leon-Rosen was an actual employee of the center even though he was practicing on contract. They assigned 80 percent of the liability to Leon, with the remaining 20 percent divided between the surgery center and ophthalmology practice. Jurors awarded Diaz and his wife, Ester, 70, $13 million, which the center was responsible for paying.
Dr. Leon-Rosen no longer works at Leon. He is still able to practice, however, despite the fact that records show medical malpractice carriers have had to pay $750,000 on his behalf to settle 19 separate claims from patients to underwent cataract surgery on September 3 and September 10, 2013.
Leon-Rosen typically injected an antibiotic called Gills solution into his patients’ eyes following the procedure. He was told he no longer could do so and the physician was supposed to switch to Gentamicin and apply this antibiotic topically to the surface of the eye. Instead, he injected Gentamicin into Diaz’s eye, as he had done with the previous medication.
Records show the doctor performed cataract surgery on 16 members on Sept. 3, 2013, injuring at least nine of them. A week later, Leon-Rosen performed another 22 surgeries, injuring at least five including Miguel Diaz, according to the lawsuit.
“People were blinded, and Leon [Medical Centers] says ‘But we have a contract stating that he’s an independent contractor,’” Attorney Gary Friedman said. “Florida law says that if you, as a principal, by your words or conduct allow people to think that the person doing the service actually works for the principal, we’re going to hold you responsible.”
“My life has changed a lot,” Diaz said following the verdict. “I have to have my family and friends to help.”
His wife is not so calm and reserved. “They ruined his life,” Ester said. “He was supposed to see the next day when they removed the bandage. Now, he can’t walk. He loses his balance. He can’t drive.”
Thirteen other parties have filed lawsuits against Leon claiming to have lost eyesight after procedures which occurred at the center. Friedman is representing all fourteen claims. Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Peter Lopez has ordered trials for each, with the Diaz case scheduled first and the next to take place in November.
Leon Medical Centers is planning to appeal. In a statement, the company said, “While we are pleased that the jury correctly concluded that there was no negligence on the part of Leon Medical Centers, we are disappointed that the effect of their decision is to hold Leon Medical Centers liable for the actions of an independently contracted ophthalmologist group. Furthermore, Leon medical Centers is committed to facilitating its patients’ access to its independent healthcare specialists and in doing so, it is in no way misleading its patients.”