Florida Supreme Court Sets Arguments in Medical Malpractice Case

The Florida Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments in December on a constitutional challenge to a 2013 medical malpractice law. The Justices agreed to take up the issue of “ex parte communications” in medical malpractice cases.

In a case filed by Emma Gayle Weaver, the representative of Thomas E. Weaver’s estate, in Escambia County, the 1st District Court of Appeal previously upheld the constitutionality of the law permitting ex parte communications.

Under the 2013 law, defense attorneys representing medical providers accused of malpractice are able to access personal medical information of the patients involved in the lawsuit outside of the presence of the patients’ attorneys. According to Weaver’s attorneys that is a violation of privacy rights. Supporters of the 2013 law said that allowing such ex parte communications is fair, because it allows defense attorneys to access information that is already available to plaintiffs’ attorneys.

Before the law was passed, defense attorneys could interview doctors, but only as part of formal proceedings, with the patient’s attorneys present to protect their privacy rights. Advocates for patients said that the law stripped away privacy rights. Several lawsuits were filed challenging the legislation as soon as it was enacted, and the state high court will now decide the issue.

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