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Court Allows Insurer To Pursue Claims Against Doctors

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MIAMI (CBSMiami/NSF) --  An appeals court Friday ruled Allstate Insurance Co. and a customer can pursue claims against medical providers.

The case stems from a scooter rider suffering head injuries in a traffic accident.

The Brevard County case involves an accident in which Benjamin Edward Hintz was riding a scooter and was struck by a car driven by Emily Boozer, whose father owned the car and was an Allstate policyholder.

That led to a lawsuit in which the Boozers were found liable for nearly $11.2 million, with Allstate paying its policy limit of $1.1 million, according to Friday's ruling by the 5th District Court of Appeal.

The rest of the judgment remains unpaid, and the appeal focuses on allegations that Hintz's injuries were made worse by medical malpractice.

The Boozers were prevented at trial from presenting evidence about alleged medical negligence.

After the verdict, a representative of Hintz filed a separate malpractice lawsuit against two doctors and Holmes Regional Medical Center.

Allstate and the Boozers intervened in the malpractice lawsuit and filed claims arguing that the health-care providers were responsible for a portion of the $11.2 million in damages in the initial case --- an issue known legally as "subrogation."

A circuit judge dismissed those claims, but the appeals court, in a 2-1 ruling Friday, overturned that decision.

"If Boozer was not solely liable, then, in fairness, she ought to be able to seek subrogation … , said the ruling, written by Judge Jay Cohen and joined by Judge William Palmer.

"Allstate should also have the opportunity to seek equitable subrogation because it has potentially paid more than its fair share. Put simply, we agree with (the Boozers and Allstate) that the right to equitable subrogation arises when payment has been made or judgment has been entered, so long as the judgment represents the victim's entire damages."

Judge Wendy Berger dissented, writing that she thinks state law prevents such claims until the entire debt is paid. The appeals court asked the Supreme Court to take up the issue, which is known as certifying a question to justices.

(The News Service of Florida's contributed to this report.)


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