Miami, FL (Law Firm Newswire) April 12, 2017 – Due to a 2004 amendment to the Constitution, the Florida Supreme Court recently ruled that a hospital system in Jacksonville had to furnish medical records to a patient’s family. The ruling could have ramifications for medical malpractice cases throughout the state.
In a prior decision, the 1st District Court of Appeal said that a federal patient-safety law prevented the hospital system from having to release some documents in a malpractice lawsuit. The ruling arose from a ballot initiative called Amendment 7, which was approved by voters, and was intended to increase access to records in malpractice cases.
Prominent South Florida personal injury attorneys Chalik & Chalik Injury Lawyers state, “The amendment will benefit medical malpractice plaintiffs who wish to discover whether the defendant hospital or physician has a pattern of exhibiting negligence in the treatment of patients.”
The family of patient Marie Charles sued the Southern Baptist Hospital of Florida, Inc., accusing it of acting negligently with respect to Charles' care, and causing a serious neurological injury. In medical malpractice cases, records retained by hospitals and other health care providers can play a significant role. The 2004 amendment to the constitution, which was supported by plaintiffs’ attorneys, was intended to allow access to “adverse medical incident” reports.
However, the Baptist Hospital system contended it should not be required to release certain documents in the Charles case due to a 2004 federal law. The law permits hospitals to present information about medical mistakes to “patient safety organizations” and provide specific confidentiality safeguards. The objective of the law was to encourage health care providers to furnish information that could be used to avoid medical mistakes in the future.
While the 1st District Court of Appeal was in agreement with the arguments made by the health system, the Supreme Court majority said the federal law was not intended to “preempt” state requirements for revealing information.
Amendment 7, which was passed before the federal law, gives patients a right to be able to access adverse medical incident records. It gives important information to injured persons who have filed medical malpractice lawsuits that stem from negligent care, and it allows people to make decisions concerning future medical providers.
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