By: Melissa Goldman
On June 5, 2013, Governor Rick Scott signed into law SB 1792, making Florida one of the toughest states in which to bring a medical malpractice lawsuit. The new law legislatively reverses the Florida Supreme Court decision in Hasan v. Garvar, which held Florida’s patient confidentiality statute prohibited non-defendant physicians from consulting with an attorney when they are called upon to give testimony on their treatment of a plaintiff patient. The new law makes other significant changes, including:
- For causes of action accruing after July 1, 2013, standard of care of care expert witnesses must specialize in the same specialty as the defendant about whose care they testify;
- Effective July 1, 2013, and applying retroactively to causes of action regardless of when they accrued, providers will be expressly authorized to discuss a patient’s care and treatment with an attorney to prepare for deposition, hearing testimony or discovery requests;
- Effective July 1, 2013, and applying retroactively to causes of action regardless of when they accrued, defense counsel will be permitted to conduct ex parte interviews of treating physicians at any time, including pre-suit, pursuant to request and notice.
The most significant aspect of the SB 1792 is the requirement that an expert witness testifying against a defendant physician in a medical malpractice case be in the same specialty as the defendant physician as opposed to a “similar specialty.” Such a requirement ensures that defendant physicians will be evaluated by experts who went through similar training and are familiar with the same procedures and treatments at the same level of care as the defendant physicians.