Florida Supreme Court eliminates parts of 2013 medical malpractice law

On November 9, the Florida Supreme Court found itself disunited. The court rejected multiple aspects of a 2013 medical-malpractice law because the changes “have gashed Florida’s constitutional right to privacy.”

Pieces of the 2013 law, justices said, could potentially allow for patients’ medical information to be disclosed even if it does not relate to the malpractice cases. The 2013 law dealt with problems in the process in which defense attorneys gather information in medical malpractice cases and their “ex parte” communications with plaintiffs’ doctors.

“Ex parte” communications are conversations between defense attorneys and the doctors surrounding the patient’s treatment. The 2013 law allowed these types of discussions to occur without the presence of plaintiffs’ attorneys. In ex parte communications where a judge is not present, communication is undocumented and could result in patient privacy violations.

Florida’s Constitution protects its citizens against violations of privacy to plaintiffs because the ex parte discussions were unrecorded and without the presence of plaintiffs’ attorneys. Based on this interpretation of the Florida Constitution, Justice R. Fred Lewis believed that this 2013 malpractice law was unconstitutional. Justice Lewis was joined by Chief Justice Jorge Labarga and justices Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince in the voting to strike down parts of the law.

However, Justice Charles Canady does not see the law as unconstitutional. He believes that Lewis’s opinion is an “unwarranted interference with the Legislature’s authority.”

Those who support the 2013 law along with Canady argue that these ex parte conversations can generate further information surrounding medical malpractice claims, leading to resolutions before the cases go to trial.

The Supreme Court’s decision, on November 9, overturned the decision made by the First District Court of Appeal.