Sen. Thrasher files ‘ER sovereign immunity’ bill

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Doctors working in emergency rooms would be protected by sovereign immunity from large medical malpractice judgements under a measure filed Thursday in the Senate, reports the News Service of Florida. The measure, filed by Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, notes that emergency room doctors must treat those who show up in the ER, and because they can’t turn away patients their malpractice insurance is expensive. By making them agents of the state they’d be immune from having to pay more than $200,000 in a malpractice claim. Victims of malpractice who are awarded more than that would have to seek compensation from the Legislature. Doctors and trial attorneys have battled for years over the rules for suing for medical malpractice, with doctors saying their targets for jackpot lawsuits and lawyers saying their concerned about closing off access to compensation for those injured by carelessness. The bill (SB 1506) would be another episode in that battle, with further provisions that attempt to make it harder to win medical malpractice awards. One provision shifts the proof standard in the cases, saying that the claimant would have to prove by “clear and convincing evidence that the alleged actions of the health care provider represent a breach of the prevailing professional standard of care in an action for damages based on death or personal injury which alleges that the death or injury resulted from the failure of a health care provider to order, perform, or administer supplemental diagnostic tests.” That’s a more difficult standard than the current one. The proposal also would allow doctors accused of malpractice to use “ex parte interviews” of the claimant’s other health care providers without the claimant or their lawyer there.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.