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Limits On Health Lawsuits Move In Florida House

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TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami) – If you want to sue a doctor or hospital over the care you received, it may be a lot tougher if action taken by the Florida House Friday becomes law. Legislators moved forward on two bills that would help shield doctors, hospitals and nursing homes from costly lawsuits.

The bills have refueled lobbying battles that pit personal-injury attorneys against medical and nursing-home groups. If this sounds familiar, it’s because similar negligence and malpractice issues dominated legislative sessions in 2001 and 2003.

House Bill 479 would attack malpractice lawsuits in a number of ways, such as creating a certification process for out-of-state expert witnesses who testify against Florida doctors. That process would allow the state to discipline experts who don’t offer true testimony a longtime complaint by doctors.

Also, if hospitals contract with doctors who make a mistake, under the House bill the hospital would not be responsible. Many medical specialities, including radiologists and anesthesiologists, work in hospitals under contract.

Supporters say the bill will cut medical costs and lower malpractice insurance rates. While House Democrats proposed a series of amendments to try to loosen the bill’s restrictions, while raising questions about how the measure would affect patients, they had no success in the Republican-controlled House.

The full House is now set to vote on the bill next week, and a similar measure (SB 1590) is ready to go to the full Senate.

The House also will vote next week on the nursing-home bill (HB 661), that places a $300 thousand cap on certain damages in lawsuits against nursing homes. It would make it harder to sue for punitive damages and take steps to protect nursing-home officers, directors and owners from liability.

That may face a tougher time, since a similar Senate bill is stuck in a committee.

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