Physicians’ group asks Florida Supreme Court to reconsider medical malpractice case

A doctors’ group has requested that the Florida Supreme Court reconsider its rejection of an arbitration agreement in a lawsuit involving medical malpractice.

The request was filed by attorneys for physician Eileen Hernandez and Women’s Care Florida LLC, approximately two weeks after the arbitration agreement was tossed out in a case involving a stillborn baby.

The validity of arbitration agreements in lawsuits over health care has been a controversial topic of late, with the issue being considered by Florida appeals courts. The cases typically involve a health care provider asking patients or family members to sign an agreement stating that disputes will be resolved through binding arbitration rather than a jury trial. Advocates argue that such agreements take away the rights of injured people to obtain fair compensation from providers that make serious medical mistakes.

On December 22, the Florida Supreme Court rejected an arbitration agreement between Lualhati Crespo and Women’s Care Florida. Crespo delivered a stillborn son in 2011. She and her husband filed a lawsuit in 2013 and later requested binding arbitration under a state-law process. Women’s Care Florida said the case should be governed by the arbitration agreement Crespo signed, which would lead to binding arbitration through a different process.

The justices rejected the arbitration agreement, declaring it void as against public policy, in a 5-2 decision, because terms in the agreement clearly favored the health care provider, including terms related to the selection of the arbitration panel. Women’s Care Florida, in its motion for rehearing, said the state high court had encroached on the right to contract.