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Florida Courts Rule Against Patient Privacy

Patient privacy issues and HIPAA were at the center of a recent Florida appeals court decision that held up a 2013 state law. The statute altered the lawsuit notice requirements in medical malpractice suits for the purpose of giving defendant physicians the ability to disclose otherwise confidential patient information in limited situations.

As reported on Law 360, the decision came after an appeal was filed with the First District Court of Appeals. The plaintiff asserted that the statute in question infringed on HIPAA regulations, thereby violating the privacy rights of patients involved in the case. The plaintiff alleged that the law also violated the authorized discretion of the Florida Supreme Court to make determinations regarding medical malpractice discovery.

The Appeal’s Court sided with the state, affirming a summary judgment against the plaintiff for the following stated reasons:

  • The Florida Supreme Court created the rule and included specific types of applicable informal discovery – the Court is not limited in its ability to govern discovery;
  • The legislature is also able to create different discovery rules;
  • The rule does not limit citizen access to the court process; and
  • A patient waives their medical privacy rights when they become involved in a medical malpractice claim.

Pro-Physician

The new law is largely considered pro-physician, with the Florida Medical Association (FMA) serving as a main supporter. The organization reportedly called the statute “a major pro-medicine victory that represents many years of lobbying by the FMA to correct glaring imbalances in the state’s tort system.”

Its provisions include:

  • Expert witnesses must practice medicine in the same specialty as the defendant physician;
  • Assurance that the physician’s right to legal representation is protected;
  • Assurance that both parties have the ability to all medical witnesses of fact; and
  • After receiving notice of intention to file a medical malpractice lawsuit, the physician can give notice and interview all health care providers for the claimant, without the presence of the claimant or his counsel.

In an effort to protect the interests of patients against the law, the Florida Justice Association reportedly coordinated an offensive attack in the courtrooms, consisting of five lawsuits in state and federal courts. The legal association reportedly asserted that the ex-parte interviews between attorneys and doctors would discourage patients from providing their physicians with all relevant medical information. The holding of Florida’s First District Court of Appeals is only one blow to the efforts of the Justice Association. The Eleventh Circuit also upheld the legality of the law.

The commencement of a medical malpractice case can prove challenging, due to the abundance of state laws and court rules. Representation by a capable and experienced attorney is vital to the success of your case.

If you or your loved one was the victim of medical malpractice in the West Palm Beach area and you are considering a lawsuit, our personal injury attorneys at Gary Roberts & Associate, P.A. can provide you with skilled representation. Call the office or contact us today for a free and confidential consultation of your case.

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