Florida Supreme Court Makes Decision with Implications for Medical Malpractice Cases
In July, the Florida Supreme Court made a decision that will inevitably make medical malpractice cases more difficult for plaintiffs by allowing defendant hospitals and practitioners to more easily challenge expert witness qualifications.
Previously, defendants had to wait until the end of trial to challenge the plaintiff’s expert qualifications, however, they can now do so much earlier on in the process; almost like the ability to appeal the issue during the trial itself. As a result, attorneys representing injured plaintiffs in medical malpractice litigation will need to be more active in ensuring that, at every stage of the trial, the plaintiff’s case is bolstered by the very best in expert witnesses who are relevant to the case allegations.
Changes to Florida’s Medical Malpractice Act
Florida’s Medical Malpractice Act, as modified in 2016, added a requirement that a plaintiff’s expert witness must be a physician who practices in the same specialty at issue in the case, with at least three years of experience. If the witness is a general practitioner, they must have at least five years of experience. Therefore, for example, if the case at issue involves mistakes made during spinal disc surgery, and none of the experts have a background in spinal surgery, the door is now open for defendants to appeal this issue before the trial is significantly underway, and therefore, additional delays are expected.
Many have pointed out that this is also a somewhat rare issue to come across in these cases, as the change was simply from “same or similar specialty” to “same specialty,” and both plaintiffs and defense tend to have experts identified fairly early on in the process. Still, that’s not to say that the rule change doesn’t have its opponents: One justice dissented on the ruling, arguing that a rule change of this magnitude should be referred to the appropriate committee for consideration and recommendations prior to being adopted.
Contact Our Florida Medical Malpractice Attorneys Today
If you or a loved one has been the victim of medical malpractice, it is critical that you work with a trusted legal team to ensure that justice is done, as medical malpractice claims can be extremely difficult to navigate in Florida.
Smith, Ball, Baez & Prather has secured millions of dollars for victims of medical malpractice. Our successful Florida medical malpractice attorneys, lawsuits and settlements are linked to a connection to the very best in expert witnesses. Contact our office today to schedule a free consultation and find out more.