In a case involving a $35 million arbitration award, the Florida Supreme Court on Thursday said it will not take up a dispute about whether a physician is able to pursue a "bad faith" claim against a medical-malpractice insurer.
Justices turned down a request from First Professionals Insurance Co. to review a ruling by the First District Court of Appeal, according to an order posted on the Supreme Court website. The appeals court ruled last year that physician Mohamad R. Samiian could pursue a bad-faith claim against the insurer in a dispute stemming from a liposuction procedure that Samiian performed in 2004 on patient Martin Gottlieb, who later that evening suffered a cardiac arrest and died. Gottlieb's estate gave notice in 2005 that it would file a medical-malpractice lawsuit. First Professionals Insurance, which was Samiian's insurer, agreed to settle and delivered a check to the estate's attorney for the policy limits. But later, an attorney representing Samiian offered to submit the case to binding arbitration, with the offer not contingent on a limitation of damages, according to the appeals-court ruling. Ultimately, an arbitration panel awarded $35.3 million to the estate and Gottlieb's survivors. Samiian in 2010 filed a case in Duval County against the insurer, arguing it had acted in "bad faith" in handling the medical-negligence claim. A three-judge panel of the appeals court said Samiian could pursue bad-faith arguments related to the decision to go to arbitration, but the panel made clear it was not deciding the merits of the case.