Barely a month after Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed two bills changing the state’s medical malpractice procedures, Florida trial attorneys have filed five lawsuits challenging the new provisions.
The new laws require that medical experts who testify in a malpractice case will need to be the same specialty as the physician who is being sued. The second change allows defense attorneys representing a physician to obtain information about a plaintiff patient from subsequent healthcare providers. It is this provision that the lawsuits are based upon.
The lawsuits allege that the law violates the right to privacy provided by both the state constitution and federal laws. Three of the suits were filed in federal court in Florida and the other two were filed in state court. All of the cases allege that the law violates the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
The lawsuits pit trial attorneys against physicians, as evidenced by statements made by both parties.
“It is hardly surprising that the trial bar would challenge [the law], as they were content with the extremely uneven playing field that existed before this legislation was enacted,” said Timothy Stapleton, Vice President of the Florida Medical Association. “This is what personal injury lawyers do, they file lawsuits.”
Debra Henley, Executive Director of the Florida Justice Association, had another take. “With everything that is happening in the federal government right now involving the invasion of privacy of U.S. citizens by their government, it is appalling to know that in Florida, our legislature and governor have authorized doctors to divulge their patients’ personal, private medical history to complete strangers,” she said in a statement.