In a long-sought move, the University of Miami won a legislative victory Wednesday when Florida lawmakers agreed to extend state lawsuit protection to university doctors working in public hospitals.
The measure passed as part of a one-two-three punch the Republican-led Legislature threw at trial lawyers. Another bill makes it tougher to sue automobile manufacturers. A third measure slapped new regulations on expert witnesses in medical-malpractice cases.
Gov. Rick Scott, who described runaway lawsuits as one of the “axis of unemployment,” is expected to sign the three bills into law. But his aides wouldn’t commit, saying the governor is reviewing the bills. More lawsuit limitations could pass in the final two days of session.
The vote to give so-called sovereign immunity to UM has been years in the making.
The state protects government hospital employees, residents and interns — including those at Miami’s Jackson Health System — from major medical malpractice judgments. But UM medical school doctors who teach at Jackson are not covered by the protected status.
For two decades, UM officials have pushed to receive the same state benefit, saying patients often sue the university instead of Jackson because of UM’s deep pockets.
The university spends $40 million a year on malpractice cases, said Ron Book, one of UM’s lobbyists in the Capitol. State protection, he added, could cut that expense in half.
Let’s hope more states are paying attention and willing to go to bat for their physicians.
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