As is the case every year, the republican legislature and insurance carriers have again placed a gauntlet in the way of Medical Malpractice victims and the Medical Malpractice Lawyers that represent those victims.
Senate Bill 1792 went into effect July 1, 2013. The bill allows for “ex parte communications” in medical malpractice cases. Ex parte communications are private conversations about a patient’s medical condition between defense attorneys and a patient’s nonparty, treating physician without the patient or the patient’s attorney present. Such communications could lead to malpractice insurers, represented by the attorney, using those communications to threaten or intimidate the doctor from testifying in a medical malpractice case or the victim from filing the case in the first place. The law becomes effective today.
In addition, medical malpractice cases will become more difficult and expensive with the requirement that expert witnesses who are called against a defendant doctor practice the exact same kind of medicine and not just be in similar fields. For example, if a spine surgeon performs a procedure that is below the standard of care, (medical malpractice), the new law requires that only a spine surgeon can testify against the offending doctor. Thus, a neurosurgeon which performs the exact same surgery is precluded from offering expert testimony.
The changes to the law serve no purpose other than to discourage medical malpractice victims and their lawyers from filing medical malpractice cases.
Five lawsuits were field yesterday claiming the new law is a violation of the right to privacy as guaranteed by the Florida Constitution. The complaints also allege the law is a violation of the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
Florida Medical Malpractice filings were already down to 900 last year from about 2,000 in 2003. Please understand that the decrease in filings is not because the medical care has gotten better, but rather because of the constant roadblocks that the Florida legislature has thrown down.