The Florida Medical Association blasted out this graphic out today, capitalizing on the Trial Bar’s announcement yesterday that the personal injury lawyers had filed 5 lawsuits against the FMA’s signature liability reform legislation. The legislation, 15 years in the making, passed during the 2013 session.
Just hours after the changes took effect, plaintiffs’ attorneys Monday filed five lawsuits challenging a key part of a new state medical-malpractice law, contending it violates the privacy rights of patients.
The lawsuits, in state and federal courts, were filed on behalf of people who are considering whether to pursue malpractice cases. Each argues that the new law could lead to the improper disclosure of personal health information to defense attorneys representing doctors or other health providers.
Such disclosure could happen without attorneys for the patients being present, a concept known in the legal world as “ex parte communications.”
“When no one is present to protect the victim, sensitive medical information may be disclosed, no matter how irrelevant, personal, or embarrassing it may be to the patient,” said Debra Henley, executive director of the Florida Justice Association, which represents plaintiffs’ attorneys and lobbied against the law. “What is worse is that the (defense) attorney can do whatever he or she wants to with that sensitive information.”
But supporters of the law have argued that it would give defense attorneys access to information that plaintiffs’ attorneys already can review. Along with saying that is a fairness issue, they contend the information could help defense attorneys make decisions more quickly about whether to settle or proceed with cases.
“It is hardly surprising that the trial bar would challenge this, as they were content with the extremely uneven playing field that existed before this legislation was enacted,” Timothy J. Stapleton, executive vice president of the Florida Medical Association, said in a prepared statement. “We’ll refrain from further comment until we have a chance to review all of the material the trial bar has submitted.”
The medical-malpractice law, which Gov. Rick Scott signed June 5, took effect Monday. The Florida Justice Association battled with the Florida Medical Association and other groups throughout the spring session about the bill, renewing a medical-malpractice fight that has flared repeatedly over the years.
Material from Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida was used in this post.