An appeals court in Tallahassee has ruled that the Florida Medical Association and three Florida doctors are not immune from liability in connection with efforts to discipline a doctor who testified as a plaintiff expert in a malpractice case. Law.com has more of the details:
On Tuesday, a 1st District Court of Appeal panel unanimously held that state and federal laws governing physician peer review do not immunize the FMA and the doctors from a suit brought by a doctor who faced disciplinary action for his testimony.
“In our judgment, because neither Florida’s peer-review statutes nor the [federal Health Care Quality Improvement Act] clearly and unambiguously expresses the legislative intent that such testimony should be scrutinized by peer review, we conclude the statutes provide no immunity to the defendants,” the court wrote.
The ruling is the latest setback for the FMA and other medical societies that have sought to clamp down on what they consider fraudulent and abusive testimony by medical experts in malpractice cases, mostly targeting plaintiff experts. The 1st DCA decision is the first on this issue by a Florida appellate court. Thus, it’s binding precedent on trial courts throughout the state until another district court rules.
The decision allows California doctor John Fullerton to proceed with his suit against the FMA and Tampa-area doctors Jonathan Warach, Pravinchandra Zala and Joseph Krebs in Leon Circuit Court. He filed the suit in 2004 alleging defamation, conspiracy, witness intimidation, tortious interference with a business relationship, conspiracy and violations of Florida’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.