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Thrasher

Emergency room sovereign immunity bill filed

from the News Service of Florida

Doctors working in emergency rooms would be protected by sovereign immunity from large medical malpractice judgments under a measure filed Thursday in the Senate.

The measure, filed by Sen. John Thrasher (R-St. Augustine), notes that emergency room doctors must treat those who show up in the ER, and because they can’t turn away patients their malpractice insurance is expensive.

By making them agents of the state they’d be immune from having to pay more than $200,000 in a malpractice claim. Victims of malpractice who are awarded more than that would have to seek compensation from the Legislature.

Doctors and trial attorneys have battled for years over the rules for suing for medical malpractice, with doctors saying they are targets for jackpot lawsuits and lawyers saying they are concerned about closing off access to compensation for those injured by carelessness.

The bill (SB 1506) would be another episode in that battle, with further provisions that attempt to make it harder to win medical malpractice awards.

One provision shifts the proof standard in the cases, saying that the claimant would have to prove by “clear and convincing evidence that the alleged actions of the health care provider represent a breach of the prevailing professional standard of care in an action for damages based on death or personal injury which alleges that the death or injury resulted from the failure of a health care provider to order, perform, or administer supplemental diagnostic tests.”

That’s a more difficult standard than the current one.

The proposal also would allow doctors accused of malpractice to use “ex parte interviews” of the claimant’s other health care providers without the claimant or his or her lawyer there.

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