Earlier this month, the state’s Supreme Court issued a Florida medical malpractice opinion that will likely have a great impact moving forward. The case required the court to consider a patient’s right to privacy following an alleged medical malpractice event. Specifically, it addressed whether the patient loses their right to privacy in certain medical records once the patient dies. The court ultimately held that a patient’s right to privacy survives after death and may be asserted by a family member bringing a Florida wrongful death lawsuit.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff was the surviving spouse of a man who died while in the care of the defendant physician. The plaintiff filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the defendant doctor, and in response, the doctor requested certain medical records pursuant to the rules of discovery.
The particular rules of discovery invoked by the defendant required the plaintiff to disclose all of the health care providers that her husband saw in the years leading up to his death. Furthermore, the rules actually allowed for the defendant to have secret meetings with the medical care providers in the absence of the plaintiff or her attorney.
The plaintiff claimed that these rules of discovery violated her husband’s right to privacy under the Florida Constitution and prevented her fair access to the courts. The defendant’s position was that the plaintiff was not in a position to raise her husband’s right to privacy because that right essentially died with her husband.
The Court’s Opinion
In a lengthy opinion, the court disagreed with the defendant and held that the discovery rules at issue did indeed violate the plaintiff’s husband’s right to privacy contained in the Florida Constitution. The court began its analysis by stating that a person’s right to privacy survives their own natural life. The court explained that to hold otherwise would lead to an odd situation in which a person who survived a medical malpractice event would have their privacy protected, but someone who died from a similar event would not.
From there, the court continued, holding that the rules of discovery allowing for a defendant to compel the names of all previous health care providers and to arrange for ex parte interviews with the providers were unconstitutional. The court explained that the rules permitted access to wholly irrelevant records to which the decedent would otherwise have a right to prevent access. Notably, the court struck down only the language that allowed for ex parte interviews with the health care providers, and disclosure of the names of the health care providers may still be required.
Have You Been Injured Due to Negligent Medical Care?
If you or a loved one has recently been a victim of what you believe to have been an act of Florida medical malpractice, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The medical malpractice laws in Florida have recently undergone several major changes, potentially increasing a plaintiff’s ability to prove their case. At Friedman, Rodman & Frank, we are on the cutting edge of Florida medical malpractice litigation, and we would be happy to meet with you to discuss your case and see if we can help you. Call 877-448-8585 to schedule a free consultation today.
More Blog Posts:
Florida’s Recreational Use Statute, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published October 27, 2017.
Court Upholds Arbitration Agreement in Recent Nursing Home Negligence Lawsuit, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published November 13, 2017.