Attorneys for patients suing in medical malpractice cases will receive a smaller cut from any settlement or judgment under a state constitutional amendment passed by Florida voters Tuesday, according to the Florida Medical Association. But two other ballot measures supported by state trial lawyers and opposed by the physician group also passed Tuesday, the FMA reported this morning.
Amendment 3, the Medical Liability Claimant's Compensation Amendment, calls for patients in a medical malpractice case to receive 70% of the first $250,000 awarded and 90% of the remainder, plus reasonable costs. On a million-dollar case, for example, the patient would receive $850,000 and his or her attorney $150,000 under these new terms, compared with up to $600,000 to the patient and $400,000 to the attorney under the old caps.
The amendment was approved by more than 63.5% of the voters with 98.8% of the votes counted, according to totals posted on the Florida Department of State Division of Elections' Web site.
"It has been a long and hard battle, but we never lost confidence that Amendment 3 was the best way to protect patients in Florida who have been medically injured," said FMA President Dennis Agliano, M.D. "Despite a scare-tactic campaign by the trial lawyers, voters were not fooled. The voice of Floridians is loud and clear tonight as they send a resounding message to the greedy trial lawyers: 'Enough is enough.' "
By an even larger margin -- 80.7% to 19.3% -- Florida voters approved Amendment 7, Patients' Right to Know About Adverse Medical Incidents, which would give patients the right to review records of adverse medical incidents at facilities and by providers, including those that cause injury or death, provided patient identities are not disclosed.
Voters also approved, 70.4% to 29.6%, Amendment 8, Public Protection from Repeated Medical Malpractice, which "prohibits medical doctors who have been found to have committed three or more incidents of medical malpractice from being licensed to practice medicine in Florida."
"We agree with the spirit of these two initiatives, but they will ultimately do harm to Florida's patients," said Rick Lentz, M.D., FMA's immediate past president. "We are now in a position where we will have to work diligently with the Legislature to insure these amendments do not aggravate the access crisis in Florida. If not properly handled by the Legislature, Florida's physicians and patients are poised to suffer many unintended consequences."