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Politics

State Capital Briefs

October 25, 2015 - 10:45pm

VOTING-RIGHTS GROUPS FIRE BACK ON CONGRESSIONAL PLAN

Voting-rights groups filed a brief Friday urging the Florida Supreme Court to approve a congressional redistricting plan recommended by a circuit judge --- and fired back at arguments made last week by attorneys for the Legislature.

The brief came as the two sides prepare for a Nov. 10 hearing at the Supreme Court about a redistricting plan recommended by Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis after years of legal battles. Attorneys for the House and Senate argued in filings last week that the Supreme Court should reject Lewis' proposal and use one of the Legislature's proposed maps.

But in the brief filed Friday, attorneys for a coalition that includes the League of Women Voters and Common Cause hammered the Legislature's arguments. "Attempting to salvage its less compliant proposals, the Legislature offers only distortion, speculation, and diatribes against coalition plaintiffs and the judiciary. … This (Supreme) Court should accept the trial court's recommendation and adopt (Lewis' recommended map) as the plan governing congressional elections in Florida,'' the brief said.

JUSTICES ASKED TO CONSIDER DEATH OF ESCAPED PATIENT

The estate of a woman who was killed on Interstate 75 after escaping from a psychiatric hospital asked the Florida Supreme Court on Friday to take up a legal dispute about whether the hospital could be found negligent. A divided 1st District Court of Appeal in August sided with Shands Vista, a psychiatric hospital affiliated with Shands Teaching Hospital and Clinics, Inc.

The appeals-court decision would effectively lead to dismissal of a lawsuit filed by the estate. Patient Ashley Lawson escaped from the hospital after taking an employee's keys and badge and was hit by a truck after going onto Interstate 75 in Alachua County, according to court documents and news reports. The woman's estate filed a negligence suit, but the hospital argued that the case should be handled as an allegation of medical malpractice. The hospital's position would lead to dismissal of the lawsuit because the estate had not given a pre-suit notice that is required in medical-malpractice cases.

The 1st District Court of Appeal agreed with the hospital's argument, prompting the estate to file a brief Friday asking the Supreme Court to decide the issue and find that the case is about negligence instead of medical malpractice. "The wrongful act in the … case --- negligently leaving one's keys and badge unattended --- was completely unrelated to the medical services rendered and the professional judgment and skill used in treating Ms. Lawson,'' the brief said.

"The complaint does not allege that Shands was negligent in rendering medical care or services to Ms. Lawson or allege that Shands was negligent in its medical diagnoses or treatment decisions. … Instead, what the estate complained about was a simple act of negligence where an employee left her keys and badge unattended, thus allowing Ms. Lawson to exit the facility."

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