Appeal Dropped In Death Of Escaped Shands Patient

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The estate of a woman who was killed on Interstate 75 after escaping from a psychiatric hospital is dismissing an appeal in a lawsuit against Shands Teaching Hospital and Clinics, according to a notice filed Thursday in the Florida Supreme Court.

The notice, filed by the estate of Ashley Lawson, does not give reasons for the dismissal, but another filing July 6 indicated the case could be settled.

“The parties are engaged in settlement discussions and there is a strong possibility the case may be resolved — with a plan to know for sure by July 25, 2016,” said the July 6 document, which the estate’s attorneys filed in seeking an extension of a deadline in the case.

The Supreme Court had agreed June 17 to hear the estate’s appeal of a ruling last year by the 1st District Court of Appeal. Lawson, a patient, escaped from Shands Vista, a psychiatric hospital affiliated with Shands Teaching Hospital and Clinics, and was hit by a truck after going on I-75 in Alachua County.

The escape occurred after Lawson took an employee’s keys and badge, according to court records. 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 seek a Supreme Court ruling that the case was about negligence instead of medical malpractice.

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