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Florida Supreme Court Issues Ruling in Medical Malpractice Case

By Orlando Personal Injury Attorney on December 30, 2012

The Florida Supreme Court recently issued a ruling that could affect the ability of James O. Cunningham and other Orlando personal injury attorneys to build medical malpractice cases for their clients. The Court’s 5-2 ruling in a Broward County malpractice case prevented an insurance company’s attorney from speaking privately with a doctor who treated the plaintiff in the case. The ruling cited a Florida law, which the court states, "creates a broad and expansive physician-patient privilege of confidentiality."

The ruling overturned a decision issued by a lower court in the case and addressed often controversial "ex parte communications" in malpractice lawsuits. In legal terms, ex parte communications can mean several different things. In this case, it means the defense attorney tried to communicate with another party about a topic that could have bearing on this case without the plaintiff’s attorney being present. There has been a fair bit of debate in the Florida legislature about ex parte communications in recent years. Courts and lawmakers have debated whether or not a defense attorney should be able to speak privately with doctors who are not parties to medical malpractice lawsuits but have treated a plaintiff in a case. It’s a very tricky legal matter, as such doctors could conceivably become potential witnesses in a case.

This medical malpractice case involves a plaintiff who filed a malpractice lawsuit against a dentist. The suit alleges that the dentist provided inadequate care, which resulted in the plaintiff getting a bone infection and serious dental problems. The plaintiff later received treatment from an oral surgeon to correct the problems. Both sides in the case began bickering after the attorney hired by the dentist’s insurance company tried to speak privately with the oral surgeon before she was deposed in the case.

Justice R. Fred Lewis wrote the majority opinion, stating that Florida law clearly protects confidentiality of information between doctors and their patients. He wrote that earlier rulings about this confidentiality have "consistently emphasized that the statute’s primary purpose is to broadly protect" against disclosing this information.

Lewis wrote, "At issue here is whether the patient confidentiality statute prohibits a nonparty-treating physician from having an ex parte meeting with an attorney selected and provided by the defendant’s insurance company. We hold that the physician-patient confidentiality statute…prohibits such meetings."

Medical malpractice cases can be especially challenging, as medical professionals accused of malpractice and their insurers have a lot to lose if a court or jury rules against them. If you believe that you or a loved one is the victim of malpractice and you want to learn more about your legal options, it is essential to speak with an experienced Orlando medical malpractice lawyer like Mr. Cunningham. He has the experience and resources to properly prepare an effective malpractice case and has a long history of success helping clients in these matters. Call 877-FL-INJURY (877-354-6587) to schedule a free consultation at one of his many law offices conveniently located throughout Central Florida.

James O. Cunningham

James O. CunninghamSince 1977, personal injury lawyer James Cunningham has provided effective legal advocacy to people who are injured through the negligent actions of another person or entity throughout the Central Florida area. He fights to obtain recoveries for his clients’ physical and emotional pain and suffering and pursues his clients’ personal injury cases with a commitment to excellence and impeccable preparation.

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