The Florida Bar News reports that the Florida Legislature has passed a bill on to the House that may end up changing the landscape of medical malpractice suits. The 3 parts of House Bill 827, as explained by the bill's sponsor, Representative Matt Gaetz (R-Shalimar), are as follows:
- The bill would address the outcome of Hasan vs. Garvar, in which the Florida Supreme Court decided that a treating dentist who was not being sued could not talk with an attorney provided by an insurance company because that company also provided the lawyer for the dentist who wasbeing sued. This bill would clarify that type of situation by legislating that the insurance company could not initiate contact with a provider and offer to provide them with a lawyer, but rather that it would be up to the provider to request a lawyer.
- The second part specifies that when expert witnesses are being called during a medical malpractice trial, the expert witness must be from the same speciality as the person on trial. This portion of the bill was defeated during debate.
- The third part would grant lawyers for the person or company on trial for medical malpractice ex parte access to treating doctors once a presuit notification has been filed. What this means, exactly, is that if you filed a medical malpractice lawsuit, your right to patient-physician confidentiality is waived, and lawyers for the doctor or health care organization that you are suing can speak with not only the defendant, but also with other doctors that treated you in the past.
The second part of the bill was fiercely contested, according to the Florida Bar News, and eventually struck from the bill. Former Senator John Grant, who was representing the Florida Justice Association, also had misgivings about the third part. To quote the article:
"If you or a member of your family had been injured, would you want the insurance company to send a lawyer, without your knowledge, to talk to any physician who ever treated you and review your medical records, without any transcription being taken of that interview or you or your lawyer being present? How would you feel?"
The bill has gone on to the House Floor, and must still pass the House and Senate before it may be signed into law. We will monitor its progress as it makes its way through the legislative system.