MIAMI –– Florida's legislation expanding immunity for certain doctors and institutions from medical malpractice lawsuits does not violate the state constitution, an appellate court ruled on Aug. 1.
In a unanimous ruling, the three judge panel of Florida's Third District Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court judgment in favor of the University of Miami and its doctors in two medical malpractice lawsuits.
The university and the doctors moved to dismiss the complaints brought in circuit court. But the former patients argued the newly passed immunity amendments violated their rights to equal protection, due process and access to courts.
In 2011, the Florida Legislature expanded immunity to "cover nonprofit independent universities that agree to provide patient services at government teaching hospitals as part of an affiliation agreement."
The ruling could have effects on several other medical malpractice cases.
The lower court found the amendments did not violate the patient's rights and the appellate court affirmed the decision.
In his opinion, Judge Robert Luck wrote, "The Florida courts, state and federal, have extended ... immunity to private companies and their employees where there is a sufficient degree of control retained or exercised by the state entity. "
The legislature’s 2011 amendments "did not violate the sovereign immunity, equal protection, due process, access to courts, jury trial, and private debt provisions of the Florida Constitution," Luck wrote.
The decision stems from two cases: Fernando Vallecillo, who was left blind after a surgery to remove a benign tumor, and Latoya Bean, whose baby died after doctors allegedly misused a drug to induce birth.