Thursday, March 25, 2010

Go Gators! An interesting use of "sovereign immunity" in Florida's medical malpractice reform

It's been an awful week or two for medical malpractice reform with state supreme courts in Georgia and Illinois striking down award caps on the vague category of "pain and suffering". (Missouri's supreme court reaffirmed that state's caps this same week ~ Rob)Such caps have been one of the most effective ways of discouraging frivolous or borderline lawsuits as it disincentives such proceedings unless the cases are truly egregious.

Florida has a bill being considered in it's legislature that would extend the concept of "sovereign immunity" to providers in the Emergency Room. Such status makes providers de facto ``agents of the state'', and consequently immune from medical malpractice lawsuits. In that setting the state would administer any successful claim, which would be subject to the sovereign immunity cap of $200,000. To recover more, victims would need to file a claims bill in the Florida Legislature. This turns the malpractice system into more of a no-fault worker's comp type of arrangement.

You can't help but think that would be a more efficient and fair way to administer such claims. Of course, trial lawyers are screaming bloody murder, but keeping them happy is low on society's to-do list (unless you are a Democrat politician accepting their bribes err... campaign contributions). If physicians are going to be involuntarily obligated by hospital credential committees or federal and state licensing issues to provide emergency services, they should at least enjoy some protection from these high risk (for malpractice exposure) duties. Kudos to Florida for experimenting with some real world solutions to tort reform!

Read more at the Miami Herald about this interesting idea.


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