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Fight Over Medical-Malpractice Law Goes To Supreme Court

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TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – A dispute over the constitutionality of a 2013 medical-malpractice law, which critics contend violates patient privacy rights, could be taken up by the Florida Supreme Court.

The 1st District Court of Appeal in July upheld the law, which is backed by groups such as physicians. But attorneys challenging the law in an Escambia County case filed a notice last week asking the Supreme Court to take up the dispute.

The challenge focuses on part of the law that allows what are known legally as "ex parte communications."

In ex parte communications, for example, defense attorneys representing a doctor accused of malpractice could get personal health information about the patient involved in the case. That information could come from other doctors who treated the patient, and disclosure could occur without the patient's attorney being present.

Opponents have raised a number of constitutional issues, including arguing that the law violates a right to privacy in the Florida Constitution. But a three-judge panel of the appeals court disagreed in the ruling last month.

"It is well-established in Florida and across the country that any privacy rights that might attach to a claimant's medical information are waived once that information is placed at issue by filing a medical malpractice claim,'' the appeals-court ruling said.

The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.

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