Tag Archives: medical malpractice

Appeals Court Upholds Medical Malpractice Law Changes

By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On July 21, a state appeals court in Tallahass2 Indest-2009-1ee upheld the constitutionality of a controversial change in Florida’s medical malpractice law. It ruled that some privacy rights are waived when patients pursue medical malpractice lawsuits. A federal appeals court last year also upheld the change in Florida’s law.

The decision by a three-judge panel of the First District Court of Appeal resulted from a 2013 change in the medical malpractice law. The Republican-controlled Florida Legislature passed the amendments to the laws after a lobbying dispute between groups like doctors and plaintiffs’ attorneys.

Ex Parte Communications Play a Major Role.

The disputes in whether the changes were constitutionally valid centered around what is known as “ex parte communications.” The amended statute allowed doctors being sued for malpractice (or their attorneys) to speak with the patients’ other physicians, whether the patient consents or not. The new law also requires patients to sign forms authorizing the release of medical information before filing malpractice claims.

Ex parte communications allow a patient’s personal health information be obtained and used in a case. Other doctors who have treated the patient could provide the information. Additionally, without the patient’s knowledge or the patient’s attorney present, a disclosure of medical information could occur.

This Ruling Stemmed From a 2013 Case in Escambia County.

In 2013, Emma Gayle Weaver of Escambia County, Florida wanted to file a medical-malpractice lawsuit against a physician. According to court documents, her concern was about the constitutionality of the ex parte provision of the law. She challenged having to disclose her medical information to the other physician she was suing in order to bring her case.

The challenge raised legal questions about privacy rights given to all citizens by the Florida Constitution. But the panel of appeal judges disagreed that the ex parte provision violates her privacy rights.

The appeal decision, written by Judge James Wolf, stated: “It is well-established in Florida and across the country that any privacy rights that might attach to a claimant’s medical information are waived once that information is placed at issue by filing a medical malpractice claim. Thus, by filing the medical malpractice lawsuit, the decedent’s medical condition is at issue.”

To read more about the Weaver v. Myers decision, click here.

Another Issue Was Addressed.

Another issue questioned whether the ex parte change violated the constitutional separation of powers. The contention dealt with whether the Legislature overstepped the role of the Florida Supreme Court. But the appeals court ruled that the change was not procedural but rather was “integral to the substantive pre-suit notice” requirements that are in the law and mandated before the filing of a medical malpractice case.

The Federal Appeals Court Also Said the Law Doesn’t Violate HIPAA.

Last year, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ex parte change in a ruling that focused on whether the 2013 law violates the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which prevents disclose of personal medical information. The federal appeals court said the law did not violate HIPAA, a decision also cited in the First District Court of Appeal’s decision.

Comments?

Do you agree the court’s ruling? Do you think this provision violates privacy rights? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Consult With a Health Law Attorney Experienced in the Representation Health Care Professionals.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, CRNAs, dentists, pharmacists, psychologists and other health providers in academic disputes, contract negotiations, license applications, board certification applications and hearings, credential hearings and civil and administrative litigations.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Source:

Saunders, Jim. “Appeals court upholds waiver of privacy rights in malpractice cases.” (July 22, 2015). Palm Beach Post. From: http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/news/state-regional-govt-politics/florida-appeals-court-backs-controversial-medical-/nm48m/

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law.  He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice.  Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area.  www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: Medical malpractice, medical malpractice defense attorney, medical malpractice defense lawyer, Florida defense attorney, Florida defense lawyer, health law attorney, health law lawyer, privacy rights, privacy rights violation, appeals court, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, HIPAA, health law, The Health Law Firm

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2015 The Health Law firm. All rights reserved.

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Florida Supreme Court Overturns Medical Malpractice Caps

6 Indest-2008-3By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Florida’s Supreme Court ruled 5-to-2 in favor of invalidating medical malpractice caps on non-economic damages. The initial legislation was put into place in 2003 by the Florida Legislature due to an alleged medical malpractice crisis. The caps limited payments to patients for non-economic damages at $500,000 in most malpractice cases and $1 million in cases involving deaths. However, on March 13, 2014, the Supreme Court concluded that the cap on wrongful death non-economic damages violates the state Constitution’s equal protection clause.

This decision by Florida’s highest court makes Florida the seventh state to make such a ruling that such limitations are unconstitutional. There are 35 states that currently have some type of cap on medical malpractice awards.

This decision stirs up harsh criticism from doctors, and praise from trial attorneys.

History of the Caps on Medical Malpractice Lawsuits.

The damages caps were initiated in 2003 by former Governor Jeb Bush, backed by doctors, hospitals and insurance companies. Supporters argued that reforms were needed to curb the outbreak of medical malpractice costs. The caps were also initiated in an effort to lower the cost of malpractice insurance rates and to keep doctors from moving out of the state. According to Health News Florida with the caps, the number of medical malpractice lawsuits fell, which was interpreted as a sign that the caps discouraged trivial lawsuits. To read the entire article from Health News Florida, click here.

Harsh Words from Florida Medical Association.

The Florida Medical Association (FMA) President Alan Harmon, M.D., wasted no time in releasing a statement of discontent. In a press release Dr. Harmon stated, “The FMA is extremely disappointed in the Supreme Court’s decision. This decision imperils our considerable efforts to make Florida the best state in the nation for physicians to practice medicine and for patients to receive care.”

Dr. Harmon mentions that without caps to help regulate out-of-control litigation, many physicians may move out of the state, and few out-of-state physicians will look to locate to Florida.

To read the full press release from Dr. Harmon, click here.

What This Means for Health Care Professionals.

Now that medical malpractice caps are gone, trial lawyers will be refocusing on lawsuits. Health care professionals need to carefully evaluate each patient before treatment begins, even consulting with specialists when necessary. Detailed documentation is also important. Make sure everything is properly charted in the patient’s medical record. As a health care professional, its important to have an open line of communication with your patient, so that he or she knows and understands his or her medical treatment.

Get Professional Liability Insurance Now.

It is now more important than ever to have good professional liability insurance. The truth of the matter is that all health care professionals should protect themselves by obtaining a personal professional liability insurance policy. A good policy will provide medical malpractice and, very importantly, licensure protection coverage. The cost on these policies varies, but it is generally quite affordable, often costing little more that $10 to $15 a month. If you do not already have it, call Healthcare Providers Service Organization (HPSO), Lloyd’s of London, CPH & Associates Insurance, or another insurance company to discuss obtaining professional liability insurance.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Health Care Professionals and Providers.

Our firm regularly represents physicians, dentists, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, massage therapists, mental health counselors, registered nurses (RNs), assisted living facilities (ALFs), home health agencies (HHAs), nurse practitioners, lab technicians, occupational therapists, physical therapists (PTs), social workers, physician assistants, psychologists and other health professionals in many different legal matters.
Services we provide include representation before your professional board in Department of Health investigations, in administrative hearings, in civil litigation, in defense of malpractice claims, in professional licensing matters, in defense of allegations concerning HIPAA privacy violations and medical record breaches, in Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) actions, and in many other matters.

In cases in which the health care professional has professional liability insurance or general liability insurance which provides coverage for such matters, we will seek to obtain coverage by your insurance company and will attempt to have your legal fees and expenses covered by your insurance company. If allowed, we will agree to take an assignment of your insurance policy proceeds in order to be able to submit our bills directly to your insurance company.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

As a health care provider, how do you feel about the malpractice caps being thrown out? Will it make you think twice about taking certain cases or treating certain patients? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Gentry, Carol. “FL Malpractice Caps Thrown Out.” Health News Florida. (March 14, 2014). From: http://health.wusf.usf.edu/post/fl-malpractice-caps-thrown-out

Klas, Mary Ellen. “Florida Supreme Court Tosses Out Medical Malpractice Cap on Damages.” Tampa Bay Times. (March 13, 2014). From: http://www.tampabay.com/news/politics/florida-supreme-court-tosses-out-medical-malpractice-cap-on-damages/2170030

VanSickle, Erin. “Supreme Court Invalidates Medical Liability Caps.” Florida Medical Association. (March 13, 2014). From: http://www.flmedical.org/Supreme_Court_invalidates_caps.aspx

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. http://www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

 

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2014 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

New System for Patients to Report Medical Mistakes in the Works

By Danielle M. Murray, J.D.

According to the New York Times, the government wants to implement a new system that would allow patients to report medical mistakes and unsafe practices by health care providers to a central reporting organization. This includes doctors, hospitals, pharmacists, and all other professionals or entities that provide medical treatment. While it is only an idea at this point, the government envisions patients reporting problems through a website or a phone number by answering a short questionnaire.

Federal officials believe that medical mistakes frequently go unreported and patients could have useful information that could be used to identify health care providers and facilities where errors are made.

A Tool to Help Doctors and Hospitals Learn from Mistakes.

Hospitals and some doctors like the idea. They argue that it would allow them to better understand the prevalence and characteristics of medical errors and learn how to better prevent those errors.

However, some suggest that these reports need to be matched with a patient’s medical records and taken with a grain of salt. Health care providers believe patients may perceive something as an adverse event that is actually not a problem or is common with the procedure they received. The example used in the New York Times article is that a patient with a hip replacement surgery may report a dislocated hip when the patient hears or feels a popping sensation, but this is a normal sensation after this type of procedure.

System Will Monitor Quality.

Health care providers are already under scrutiny by the government through Medicare and Medicaid. This would be another tool used to monitor doctors’ ability to give care. It’s great for patients, but what will the effect be on providers? It’s too soon to say. The American Medical Association did not comment for the New York Times article, stating that it needed to study the details.

To read the New York Times article, click here.

Comments?

As a provider, do you agree with this proposed system? Leave a comment below.

How Patient Complaints Can Impact Your License.

As many health professionals are aware, patient complaints are a frequent cause of problems for your license. When a patient complains to the Department of Health (DOH), the DOH will hold a hearing, called a probable cause panel, to determine, based on the complaint, if there is enough information to proceed against your license. If there is, the DOH will file an administrative complaint against your license, and ask you to voluntarily relinquish your license.

When you receive the first correspondence from the DOH that there is a pending investigation, do not sit idly. Call an experienced health law attorney, such as those available at The Health Law Firm, to evaluate your case and let you know what your options are. Do not speak with any investigator or DOH representative, and do not voluntarily relinquish your license. Your career and livelihood are at stake.

For a list of the 25 biggest mistakes health professionals make when notified of a DOH investigation, click here.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Health Care Providers in DOH Cases.

The Health Law Firm represents pharmacists, pharmacies, physicians, nurses, and other health providers in investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, inspections and audits involving the DEA, Department of Health (DOH) and other law enforcement agencies.

If you are aware of an investigation of you or your practice, or if you have been contacted by DOH, contact an experienced health law attorney immediately.

To contact the Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Source:

Pear, Robert, “New System for Patients to Report Medical Mistakes.” The New York Times, (September 22, 2012). From: ttp://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/23/health/new-system-for-patients-to-report-medical-mistakes.html?emc=tnt&tntemail0=y&_r=1

 

About the Author: Danielle M. Murray is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.