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Supreme Court To Decide Malpractice Dispute

Stethoscope and gavel against a white backdrop.
Wikimedia Commons
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

The Florida Supreme Court has agreed to take up a constitutional challenge to a 2013 medical-malpractice law that spurred a lobbying battle between groups such as doctors and plaintiffs' attorneys.

Justices issued an order Wednesday saying they will hear arguments in the dispute about part of the law that allows what are known as "ex parte communications" in malpractice cases.

The 1st District Court of Appeal upheld the constitutionality of the law in an Escambia County case filed by Emma Gayle Weaver, who was the representative of the estate of Thomas E. Weaver, whose care was at issue in malpractice allegations.

In ex parte communications, for example, defense attorneys representing doctors accused of malpractice could get personal health information about the patients involved in the cases. That information could come from other doctors who treated the patients, and disclosure could occur without the patients' attorneys being present. Weaver's attorneys argue, in part, that the law violates privacy rights.

But supporters of the law contended during the 2013 debate that its passage was a fairness issue because ex parte communications would give defense attorneys access to information that plaintiffs' attorneys already can review.

The Supreme Court did not immediately set a date for oral arguments.