Florida Senate makes changes to medical malpractice bill

Florida lawmakers are at odds over restrictions to the rights of injured patients to pursue compensation in medical malpractice lawsuits. The latest proposals included shielding hospitals from malpractice claims filed against contracted physicians. Further restrictions involved the use of expert witnesses in medical malpractice lawsuits. These proposals follow the trend started in 2003 when state lawmakers placed a cap on the damages that could be paid in medical malpractice cases.

The Florida Senate removed the portions of the bill that impact a common practice at hospitals-contracting with outside physicians to provide certain services. The House version of the bill included both the restrictions placed on expert witnesses, as well as the shield provision. Whatever form the bill finally takes, it is clear that patients injured by medical malpractice will have a more difficult time in obtaining compensation.

A key issue in both the House and Senate versions was how to manage the use of expert witnesses from out of state. Medical professionals in Florida claimed the measure was necessary to curb the use of deceptive and fraudulent testimony by experts who were not subject to discipline by Florida health care governing bodies. The new bill will require these experts to obtain certification and will also allow them to be disciplined based on the testimony they offer against doctors in malpractice cases.

In addition to those restrictions, the bill included proposals for lower caps on claims against hospitals and nursing homes. The amount that could be claimed in wrongful death claims or as punitive damages would be lowered. The outcome of those provisions has not yet been decided.

Source: Sunshine State News, “Senate Removes Key Provisions From Med Mal Bill,” Jim Saunders, 3 May 2011