The Florida Supreme Court seems to be on a roll. They just published another very plaintiff friendly opinion fortifying doctor-patient confidentiality in a Florida medical malpractice case. Ramsey Hasan sued his dentist, Dr. Lanny Garvar for not properly diagnosing his condition that resulted in a severe bone infection, physical and mental pain and disfigurement.
Mr. Hasan sought additional care for his bone damage from Dr. Jennifer Schaumberg, an oral surgeon. Coincidentally, Dr. Schaumberg has the very same dental malpractice insurance as Dr. Garvar. During the course of the litigation, Dr. Garvar’s lawyers tried to have an ex parte or “private meeting” with Dr. Schaumberg even though she is not being sued.
Initially, Dr. Schaumberg was represented by a lawyer in a different law firm as Dr. Garvar. But soon after the case was filed, the attorney switched law firms to the firm representing Dr, Garvar. This means that the same dental malpractice insurance company selected, retained and paid for both Dr. Garvar and Dr. Schaumberg’s lawyers.
When Mr. Hasan found out that Dr. Garvar’s dental malpractice insurance company paid an attorney to confer with Dr. Schaumberg; he asked the judge to enter a “protective order” to prohibit the meeting. He claimed that the proposed meeting violated Florida’s doctor/patient confidentiality privilege. Dr. Garvar argued that his lawyer should meet privately with Dr. Schaumberg based upon the First Amendment right to freedom of speech.
The trial judge agreed with Dr. Garvar. Mr. Hasan appealed to Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal which also agreed and ordered that the private meeting go forward. Mr. Hasan then appealed to Florida’s Supreme Court; which quashed the Fourth’s ruling. The Supreme Court found that the physician-patient confidentiality statute prohibits a doctor who is not a party to a medical malpractice case from privately meeting with a defendant doctor’s lawyers.
I applaud the Supreme Court’s decision. I have faced this exact issue in a similar dental malpractice case, ironically with the lawyers representing Dr. Garvar. In medical malpractice cases the testimony and opinion of a patient’s treating doctor regarding damage, cost of medical care and prognosis is very important. I believe that defendant doctors and their lawyers should never be allowed to communicate with a plaintiff’s doctor privately. This is especially important when both doctors are insured by the same medical malpractice carrier. A patient’s right to privacy can never be violated simply because they are suing another doctor or hospital for negligence.
To learn more about Florida’s pro-doctor laws please read my recent blog for the Huffington Post: ” Patients, Beware When Doctors ‘Go Bare.”
Read the entire Supreme Court of Florida opinion of Ramsey Hasan v. Lanny Garvar, D.M.D. here.