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Supreme Court Asked To Reconsider Medical Malpractice Case

Florida Supreme Court
Flickr

Pointing to potentially far-reaching effects, a physicians' group is asking the Florida Supreme Court to reconsider the rejection of an arbitration agreement in a medical-malpractice case.

Attorneys for Women's Care Florida LLC and physician Eileen Hernandez filed the request Friday, about two weeks after a divided Supreme Court tossed out the arbitration agreement in a case involving an infant who was stillborn.

Florida appeals courts in recent years have grappled with numerous cases about the validity of arbitration agreements in health-care lawsuits. The cases typically stem from providers requesting that patients or family members sign agreements to take disputes to arbitration rather than to potential jury trials.

The Supreme Court on Dec. 22 rejected an agreement between Women's Care Florida and Lualhati Crespo, who delivered a stillborn son in 2011. Crespo and her husband filed a lawsuit in Orange County in 2013 and later requested binding arbitration under a process spelled out in a state medical-malpractice law. But Women's Care Florida said the case should be governed by the arbitration agreement signed by Crespo — an agreement that would lead to binding arbitration through a process different than under state law.

Justices, in a 5-2 decision, rejected the arbitration agreement, saying it was "void as against public policy" because it included terms that were "clearly favorable" to Women's Care Florida, such as terms related to the selection of an arbitration panel. But in a motion for rehearing Friday, attorneys for Women's Care Florida argued, in part, that the Supreme Court decision violates the state and federal constitutions because it impermissibly "encroaches on the right" to contract.