Effective October 1, 2011, individuals seeking redress for injuries caused by medical errors face yet another obstacle placed in their path by Florida’s Republican-dominated legislature. The new legislation applies to cases that arise on or after October 1, 2011.
The new legislation, Florida Statute 766.1065, forces claimants to provide target defendants with a medical authorization form along with the notice of intent to initiate litigation. The problem is that the authorization requirements of 766.1065 appear to abrogate the privacy rights of patients under Florida Statute section 456.057(7)(a) and the Federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act at 42 USC Section 201 et seq. (commonly referred to as HIPAA) and 45 CFR Section 164.512.
It is too early to tell how the conflict will be resolved. One would like to believe that privacy rights will hold sway, but the forces seeking to insulate medical providers and their malpractice insurance companies hold an inordinate amount of influence in this state, so the outcome is anything but predictable.
The consequences of failing to comply with 766.1065 could be fatal to the case, so it is best not to play with that fire. We recommend providing the required authorization form, but include a statement in the notice of intent to initiate litigation, in bold large face type, that the authorization does not abrogate or supersede the doctor-patient privacy/confidentiality rights deliniated in the aforementioned citations.
Perhaps even more problematic to the pursuit of due process than the authorization, is the further hurdle created by the new law that for physicians licensed in other states to provide expert testimony in Florida about the prevailing professional standard of care or to execute and submit presuit verified written expert medical opinions, they must obtain certain certificates. Florida Statute Sections 766.102(12) and 458.3175. This is an onerous requirement designed to make it more difficult for those harmed by malpractice to pursue just compensation.