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Justices Turn Down University Of Miami Liability Case

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TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) - In a case stemming from a brain injury suffered during a baby's delivery, the Florida Supreme Court has decided not to take up a dispute about whether the University of Miami could face liability for the actions of two doctors.

In July, the university asked the Supreme Court to review a decision by the 3rd District Court of Appeal. Justices issued an order Wednesday declining the request. The case involves a brain injury suffered during the 1998 birth of Michael Ruiz at Jackson North Maternity Center in Miami-Dade County.

The child's parents, Miguel and Juanita Ruiz, sued the university, which employed physicians Paul Norris and Bel Barker through its medical school, according to court records.

The dispute has focused, at least in part, on whether the university should be shielded from liability because of the Florida Birth-Related Neurological Injury Association, which is a state no-fault program that provides compensation in cases in which children are injured at birth.

An administrative law judge ruled that Michael Ruiz's injuries were compensable through the program but that Norris and Barker had not provided the family a legally required notice about participation in so-called NICA. The family pursued a civil lawsuit.

The appeals court ruled that the university could not be held directly liable in the case. But because the doctors had not complied with the notice requirement, the court said the university could be found liable for the actions of its employees, a concept known as vicarious liability. That prompted the university to seek the Supreme Court review.

The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.

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