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Verdict Overturned In ‘Concierge’ Medicine Case

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

A South Florida appeals court Wednesday overturned a verdict against a “concierge” medicine firm in a case involving alleged malpractice that forced the amputation of a woman's leg.

The defendant in the case, MDVIP, Inc., operates a program in which patients pay an annual fee and receive benefits such as greater access to physicians.

The lawsuit was filed in Palm Beach County after alleged negligence by a doctor affiliated with MDVIP led to a patient, Joan Beber, needing to have her leg amputated above the knee, according to Wednesday's ruling by a panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal.

Pretrial settlements were reached with defendants other than MDVIP, which affiliates with doctors but does not make medical decisions. A jury ruled in favor of Beber and awarded nearly $8.54 million in damages, finding fraudulent misrepresentation by MDVIP in marketing materials and “vicarious” liability related to the doctor's negligence.

But the appeals court Wednesday ordered a verdict for MDVIP on the fraud-related claims, which made up $7.5 million of the award. Among the issues cited Wednesday, for example, were arguments that MDVIP misrepresented its physician-selection criteria.

“The testimony did not establish that a physician's expertise was not a part of this evaluation, but rather that the `primary' metric used was patient relationships,” said the ruling, written by appeals-court Judge Alan Forst and joined by judges Carole Taylor and Burton Conner. “The evidence did not show that MDVIP knew its statement regarding selection criteria was false, and in fact showed that the selection criteria represented was in fact the selection criteria used.”

The appeals court also found errors in the circuit court's handling of the claims of vicarious liability and sent the case back for a new trial on those issues.