Last week was a hectic one in Tallahassee and I wanted to take a minute to provide everyone an update on the medical malpractice issues that have broken out in the last few days.  Forgive me in advance for the length of this email, but please read through to the end.

First, to provide a little context, about ten days ago, Senate President Designate Don Gaetz announced that he had helped engineer a deal between the Florida Optometric Association and the Florida Medical Association (FMA) to resolve a twenty year conflict between ophthalmologists and optometrists over the latter's desire for greater prescribing privileges.  The deal would give optometrists the ability to prescribe certain controlled substances, and in exchange for the FMA laying down their opposition, the legislature would pass a package of medical malpractice changes, including the clear and convincing standard for diagnostic testing, ex parte communications and arbitration agreements between doctors and patients.

This insider special interest deal was brought before the Senate Health Regulation Committee in a last minute, late filed amendment. The only reason the amendment was able to pass was due to the Senate President allowing an additional Senator to vote on the Committee, thereby changing the outcome.

Then last week, the House Government Operations Appropriations Subcommittee passed a similar bill; however, the House proposal does not include the arbitration provisions.

In good news, in both the House and Senate, we were able to get the legislature to kill proposals to create sovereign immunity for emergency room doctors.  This is directly due to the diligent work of FJA Executive Director Debra Henley, who worked with the office of Chief Financial Officer to show that the fiscal impact of sovereign immunity to taxpayers is significant.

So where it stands today:  The Senate proposal has a clear and convincing standard for supplemental testing, ex-parte communication and arbitration.  The House has clear and convincing and ex-parte, but not arbitration.   Both bills still have to pass another committee before going to the floor for votes, and neither bill is on an agenda for early this week.

This week's video has a message from Debra Henley that goes into further detail about where these issues stand.

We have had very good participation from lawyers who have spent a lot of time helping us lobby the key votes in upcoming committees, as well as if we end up in a fight on the floor.  We have a good game plan and a strong bi-partisan coalition of advocates, and we are cautiously optimistic about the end game.  That being said, it is the Florida Legislature and we can take nothing for granted.

For those of you looking to engage, there are two ways to be helpful:

  • First, if you have client examples or if you are seeing medical arbitration agreements that can show specifically how these changes will impact real people, please let us know ASAP.
  • Secondly, the Legislature is all about personal relationships. If you want to come help us lobby legislators that you know, please come join us in Tallahassee.  Simply reply to this email and we will be in contact with you.

Thank you for your continued support and in advance for your help on this issue.  As I said at the beginning, these changes were thrust on us a little over a week ago, but thanks to the hard work of FJA members and staff, we are actively fighting to protect the rights of your clients.

Find out how you can be a part of our cause by calling Lynn McCartney in the FJA Legislative Department at (850) 521-1030.


Fred Cunningham
FJA President

P.S. – Learn more about our video sponsor, The James Street Group, by visiting their website.