DELRAY BEACH — Malpractice lawsuits and regulatory laws in Florida that impact doctors and other health care providers have been increasing in recent years, along with requests from health care professionals on how they can protect themselves, leading attorney firms specializing in the field to provide more services.

“The news here is we recognize today that our (health care) clients have more liability than most other professionals, and how do we protect them and their assets?” Jeff Cohen, founder of the Florida Healthcare Law Firm, told the Florida Record.

The law firm focuses on defending health care professionals.

Cohen said that although other law firms are also involved in the field, Florida Healthcare Law Firm is unique because it specializes in asset protection and estate and trust planning for doctors and health care providers, including hospitals, drug and alcohol treatment centers, pharmacies, surgery facilities and imaging centers.

The has received numerous requests from professionals in the health care industry on how to protect themselves, but Cohen said clients have been requesting more information recently on how to protect themselves so they can preserve their assets. Clients are counseled on subjects like liability, creditors, and search and seizure through lectures, webinars and articles published on the topic.

The firm recently hired Susan St. John, an attorney with experience in health care law, tax law, estate and trust planning, business planning and civil trial law. St. John, who has represented clients before Florida courts, including The Florida 1st District Court of Appeal and administrative tribunals, said she has long been interested in estate planning and preservation.

“I’ve been licensed since 2003, and I’ve been in tax planning and trust preservation, keeping what you worked so hard to achieve, and maybe to preserve it for your children,” St. John said.

Health care professionals are more subject to malpractice complaints than other professions. One of the major threats is the possibility of cross liability, in which a creditor has a claim against a piece of property, for example, but the value is not enough to cover the claim and the insurance won’t cover it. The creditor can then go after further assets.

“One way to protect assets against such a possibility is to spread them out into separate limited liability companies,” St. John said.  

St. John agreed what happens in the Florida Legislature has a bearing on malpractice litigation. In 2014, the Florida Supreme Court rejected an attempt by the Florida Legislature to place a cap on medical liability suits as being unlawful and a violation of equal rights protection under the Florida Constitution. Lawmakers maintained that Florida’s rising medical malpractice insurance premiums were among the reasons doctors are leaving the state.

“Events such as this may have the impact of creating more exposure for the individual,” St. John said.    

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