As a Miami Medical Malpractice Lawyer, every year I watch the rights of Medical Malpractice victims come under attack. Just six (6) months ago, the legislature stripped away the rights of medicaid recipients who were the victims of medical malpractice, and made it more difficult to hire out of state medical experts. The Republican led Florida legislature and Governor Scott are again pushing hard to close the courthouse doors on victims of Medical Malpractice.
The Senate Health Regulation adopted medical malpractice reforms, including provisions to impose a clear and convincing burden of proof with regard to supplemental diagnostic testing and to allow ex parte communications with treating physicians. Beyond these two, the Senate committee also authorized an arbitration provision that would authorize arbitration agreements between doctors and patients with regard to any current or future claim for medical negligence, and it would specifically allow such agreements to limit available damages.
The arbitration provision is bad public policy and totally destroys a patient's rights when a doctor or hospital endangers the safety of a patient. The bill allows a negligent doctor, dentist, optometrist or hospital to CHOOSE an unfair and arbitrary cap on both economic and non-economic damages. The provision also says that a doctor can have a current patient sign away their rights AFTER the doctor is aware of a mistake, but BEFORE the patient is made aware of the mistake. This will unnecessarily destroy Florida's families who are the victims of medical errors. You can read the Senate bill here: CS/SB 1506.
Today, the House Government Operations Appropriations Subcommittee also adopted a med mal bill that included the clear and convincing standard for burden of proof with regard to supplemental diagnostic testing and the ex parte communications with treating physicians language. The House bill does not contain any arbitration language. You can read the House proposal here: CS/CS/HB 385.
What does all this mean for Florida residents. First and foremost, It will become extremely difficult to bring claims based in part on a doctor's failure to order diagnostic testing.
Secondly, the lawyer for the doctor or hospital that a patient is suing will be allowed to speak directly to all of the patients doctors. This is not allowed in any other type of lawsuit.
Finally, the arbitration provision would serve to close the courthouse doors. Claims would be decided by a panel of arbitrators, rather a jury of ones peers. Incredibly enough the arbitration agreement can include a cap on damages, and can even be signed after the Malpractice occurs.
Are you kidding me? Only in Florida, can this happen.
Call your local congressman, and tell him/her that you are against any more reform, and would rather that the legislature focus on enforcing regulation against bad doctors.