Friday, January 21, 2005
I have been following with interest the various tort reform measures that have been proposed around the country over the past few years. I can honestly say that I believe the recent reform proposed by a Florida business group should win the award for the most radical changes to our legal system, not just our tort system.
The Associated Industries of Florida, sent to the Florida legislature a massive (111-page) proposed revision to Florida's tort system which would abolish punitive damages, cap attorney fees and noneconomic damages in all tort cases and grant immunity from malpractice lawsuits to emergency room doctors. Other provisions of the legislation would repeal the Sunshine in Litigation Act, which bars state court judges from sealing judgments that conceal public hazards, further cap damages in patient abuse and neglect lawsuits against nursing homes and allow jail time for those who duck jury duty.
The Republican-controlled Florida legislature have not yet expressed an opinion on the bill. They are eager, however, to enact further tort reform. In recent years, they have been successful in passing bills that cap damages for awards in medical malpractice cases. The Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers and some Democratic legislators who oppose the tort measures view this legislative package as a signal that business and industry plan to attack the plaintiff bar again this session.
So, what do Florida doctors think about this proposed legislation? They seem to have a completely different agenda. The Florida Medical Association has promised its members to work to protect doctors' right to practice without malpractice insurance (mmm - interesting idea - I am sure that it will improve the quality of care that Florida residents receive), to maintain the wrongful death exemption, which prevents family members of single adults who die in an accident from filing lawsuits, to restrict attorney advertising, and to enact legislation that restricts who can serve as an expert witness in malpractice cases. [bm]