Judge Rules for Malpractice Victim's Rights

By: Chris Janes

The Florida Medical Association had successfully lobbied Florida legislators to allow adjusters, hospital risk managers, lawyers and the defendant doctor to meet in secret with a medical malpractice victim’s treating physicians. Last month, U.S District Judge Robert Hinkle ruled that this law violated the victims privacy rights.

In Murphy v. Dulay, Dr. Dulay tried to force Mr. Murphy to sign a release so that he, his lawyers and his insurance adjuster could secretly meet with Mr. Murphy’s treating doctors. There would be no recordings, no notes, nothing for Mr. Murphy to review regarding the meeting.

But Mr. Murphy and his attorneys stood up and said, “NO!” Thankfully, Judge Hinkle agreed.

What about a patient’s right to privacy, you may ask. It’s an obvious question. For the past three decades, the Florida Legislature has been whittling away at the rights of patients injured in malpractice cases.  Allowing the doctor, his lawyers, risk managers and insurance adjusters to meet privately to “discuss” the case before the lawsuit is even filed, is just one example.

What might be discussed in meetings with all of these players without the patient or his lawyer? Why would anyone suggest such a meeting? Imagine how a doctor treating the victim of medical malpractice would feel after receiving a request for a meeting from a lawyer who represents doctors and hospitals, or an adjuster for an insurance company which insures doctors, or a risk manager of the hospital where the doctor works.

Are we naive enough to think that all of these people with a financial interest in the outcome want to speak objectively and in the best interest of the victim? Aren’t they more likely there to arrange the facts of the case in the light most favorable to them?

Judge Hinkle endorsed the right of patients and their lawyers to be present in those meetings.

Florida Chapter 766 requires burdensome and pointless pre-suit requirements, limits damages, places hurdles on victims to find experts and other obstacles to justice.  Follow our blog to learn more about how your protection is being eroded and your rights are being taken from you.

Sadly, several times a month I have a conversation with potential clients right here in Pensacola and Fort Walton Beach to explain that the law does not support their claim because of some onerous requirement of the law. Without fail, the response is a universal, “But that doesn’t make sense.”

Victims of medical malpractice and their loved ones face mounting medical bills, lost wages and emotional stress. You do not have to face all of that alone. Contact us today for a free consultation. Bringing a claim for medical negligence is a serious and complex process, and here at Michles & Booth we have extensive experience obtaining justice for the victims of medical negligence.


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