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Clarifying Amendment 7 of Florida Constitution – Bartow HMA, LLC v. Edwards

medical doctorWhen we seek medical help, we expect to get better, not worse. Unfortunately, medical mistakes are common, and patients often suffer harm at the hands of the very medical professionals they trust with their health. Medical malpractice occurs when a health care professional makes a medical error that results in harm to the patient. In medical malpractice cases, the health care professionals involved likely created a record of the incident.

In Bartow HMA, LLC v. Edwards, the plaintiff filed a medical malpractice case against the physician who removed her gall bladder as well as the hospital, alleging the hospital was responsible for the injuries caused by the physician, nurses, and other hospital personnel when she was injured during surgery.

The plaintiff asked the hospital for all the documents from the five years prior to the surgery relating to the investigation or review of the physician’s care of any patient and all documents pertaining to the investigation or review of her treatment or care.

The hospital responded to some of the requests and filed objections and privilege logs as to other items. Among the documents that the hospital maintained were privileged were reports pertaining to attorney-requested external peer review.

The trial court conducted a hearing and stated that the documents in the privilege log were privileged. However, Amendment 7 preempted the privilege. While both the plaintiff and the defendant agreed that an in-camera inspection should be conducted, the trial court did not do so and ordered production of different documents related to adverse medical incidents involving the physician. The hospital produced the documents relating to the internal peer review, but it filed a petition for certiorari review of the order on the issue of producing documents relating to external peer review.

The Second District provided a summary of the current law governing Amendment 7 requests. The court first considered whether the reports were made in the ordinary course of business. Since they were created by an expert hired for litigation reasons, the court determined that they were not made or received in the course of business.

Next, the court analyzed the term “adverse medical incident.” The plaintiff argued that the section stated that external peer review reports were discoverable because they were instances of adverse medical incidents being reported to a committee. Specifically, she maintained that the external review company served the same purpose as an internal “committee” and that the external review was an attempt by the hospital to protect its peer review process from being discovered.

The Second District Court disagreed with the plaintiff. Instead, the court found that the external review company was reviewing specific incidents in anticipation of litigation because they included expert opinions at the request of counsel. Under this analysis, the court determined that external peer review reports did not fall under Amendment 7 and were protected from being discovered.

Medical malpractice cases are extremely complex, which is why it is important to seek the help of a Florida medical malpractice attorney if you are thinking of pursuing such a claim. At the Law Offices of Robert Dixon, our team has years of experience and can put this knowledge to use in your case. You can rest assured that we will make every effort to get you the compensation you deserve for your harm. To find out about your options, contact us online or call us today at 1-877-499-HURT (4878).

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