As reported by the Palm Beach Post, on Tuesday the House Judiciary Committee scaled back a bill (HB 827) that earlier included proposals such as shielding hospitals from liability if negligence is caused by physicians who work at the hospitals as independent contractors. The House measure still has differences with the Senate medical-malpractice bill (SB 1792), which could be heard on the Senate floor Wednesday.
Medical malpractice is the subject of an almost-perennial lobbying fight, with doctors, hospitals and other groups pushing bills to curb lawsuits ”- and plaintiffs’ attorneys fighting back to try to prevent changes that they say would harm the legal rights of malpractice victims. Both the House and Senate bills would make a change that deals with physicians who are not parties to medical-malpractice lawsuits but treat the patients in those cases. The bills would allow defense attorneys to have what are known as œex parte communications with those treating physicians to try to get information. Such interviews would be outside the presence of the plaintiffs’ attorneys. House sponsor Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach said allowing such conversations could help get cases settled sooner. But critics say, in part, the interviews could violate privacy rights that are involved in doctor-patient relationships.
The House Judiciary Committee voted 12-6 to approve the scaled-back bill, which is now prepared to go to the full House. But the biggest fight during the meeting came on an amendment that dealt with expert witnesses in malpractice cases. The bill called for limiting expert witnesses to doctors who have the same specialties as the defendants in malpractice lawsuits. That would be more-restrictive than current law, which allows expert witnesses who have the same specialties or similar specialties.