A recent decision by the Florida Supreme Court has reversed a ruling by the 1st District Court of Appeals over a medical malpractice arbitration agreement. That agreement was signed by a 67-year-old man who needed hernia surgery. The agreement, if upheld, would have limited damages in the medical malpractice lawsuit and required arbitration.
The man, who died in 2009, had signed the arbitration agreement with North Florida Surgeons before having the surgery. This practice is becoming more common, especially in nursing homes, and is a means of avoiding medical malpractice lawsuits.
The 5-2 decision by the state Supreme Court found that the arbitration agreement was a violation of “public policy.” In other words, the agreement would have limited the amount of damages for noneconomic claims to $250,000. However, in the state of Florida, noneconomic damages can be awarded up to $1 million in this case. The majority and concurring opinions said the agreement forced the patient to give up his right to pursue a claim for medical malpractice. In addition, it limited the amount of damages he could have collected and did not require the defendant to give up any of his rights or to admit liability. There was no benefit for the patient in the arbitration agreement.
The dissenting opinion, which was written by Justice Charles Canady, said that these types of agreements are designed to limit litigation costs and the amount of damages.
The Florida’s Justice Association trial lawyers’ group presented briefs arguing against the agreement, while several state medical associations argued the agreement should be upheld.
If you believe you have been the victim of medical malpractice and have not sought out an attorney because of similar arbitration agreement, you should speak with one soon. An experienced medical malpractice attorney can advise you as to the best way to proceed and work diligently towards getting you the financial compensation you deserve.
Source: news-press.com, “Florida justices reject medical malpractice agreement in patient’s death” Jim Saunders, Jun. 20, 2013