STFBC Secures Appellate Victory in MLB Medical Malpractice Case

In a groundbreaking legal decision, Florida's Sixth District Court of Appeal ruled that a doctor must face allegations of malpractice in the civil court system and may not use arbitration to avoid a jury trial. Our firm represents the parents of Ryan Costello, a minor league baseball player, who died due to malpractice committed by a sports medicine physician for a Major League Baseball team.

Ryan Costello was a promising player drafted by the Seattle Mariners and later acquired by the Minnesota Twins to play for two of its minor league affiliates in Florida. In March 2019, he underwent a medical evaluation to determine whether he was fit to participate in spring training.

Ryan’s evaluation included an EKG, which revealed cardiac abnormalities. Specifically, the test showed that Ryan had Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, which is a treatable condition, but one that can make participating in vigorous activity dangerous and potentially fatal if not treated. The team doctor, Dr. David Olson, ignored the abnormal result and failed to conduct any further testing or refer Ryan to a specialist. As a result, the Twins sent Ryan to play in a developmental league in New Zealand. Unfortunately, Ryan passed away in his hotel room as a result of Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome.

Stewart Tilghman Fox Bianchi & Cain filed suit on behalf of Ryan Costello’s estate. Dr. Olson then sought to remove the case from the civil justice system and force the Costellos to go to arbitration. According to Dr. Olson, an arbitration agreement found within Ryan’s minor league baseball contract required that the dispute be arbitrated rather than heard before a jury. Florida’s Sixth District Court of Appeal disagreed, stating that the claims did not fall within the scope of the arbitration provision.

In discussing the opinion with the Daily Business Review, Gary Fox explained, “The Court could have simply ruled, in a brief opinion, that the arbitration clause did not apply. Instead, they went into a lot of detail about the nature of the malpractice and the question is why they did that when it wasn’t necessary to understand the legal holding of the case."

“My sense is that they wanted people to know that this young man was a victim and they were doing their part to right the wrong,” he added.

Michael Levine further explained: “There’s been a significant trend toward enforcing arbitration agreements, so this is a particularly interesting opinion where the court found the arbitration agreement did not apply; this ruling shows that facts still matter.”

This ruling sets a precedent that facts and the nature of the dispute are crucial in determining the applicability of arbitration clauses. It highlights the need to scrutinize arbitration agreements and their limitations, particularly in cases involving medical malpractice.

Our firm is proud to represent Ryan’s family in this critical matter and looks forward to bringing this case to trial.