The Florida Supreme Court Ruled that a Medical Malpractice Arbitration Agreement Was Unenforceable as Against Public Policy

The Florida Supreme Court Ruled that a Medical Malpractice Arbitration Agreement Was Unenforceable as Against Public Policy

Case: Hernandez v. Crespo, 171 So. 3d 116 (Fla. 2015)

In an important medical malpractice case, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that arbitration agreements cannot do the following:

  • Change the costs the medical providers (defendants) must pay
  • Limit the amount of money the plaintiff can recover
  • Limit the fairness incentives of the Medical Malpractice Act.

What Is the Medical Malpractice Act?

The Medical Malpractice Act (“MMA”), includes a statutory arbitration procedure covering potential medical malpractice claims. Although the law permits medical providers to enter into arbitration agreements with patients, such agreements could be in conflict with the MMA and may be unenforceable.  See Fla. Stat. §§ 766.207, 766.212 (outlining the required contents of medical malpractice arbitration agreements).

What Happened in the Hernandez v. Crespo Ruling?

In Crespo, the Supreme Court ruled that the arbitration agreement violated public policy and was unenforceable.  The Supreme Court of Florida held that medical care providers cannot create arbitration clauses and agreements which are in conflict with or undermine the intentions and purposes of the MMA or other laws, and the binding arbitration procedure in the MMA. The Supreme Court found that the arbitration agreement terms were in direct conflict with the “‘substantial incentives for both claimants and defendants to submit their cases to binding arbitration’” that “[t]he [statutory] arbitration provisions were enacted to provide.” Chester v. Doig, 842 So. 2d 106, 107 (Fla. 2003) (quoting § 766.201(2)(b), Fla. Stat. (1997)).

What Can Make an Arbitration Agreement Void?

A medical care providers arbitration agreement would be void if it does not concede liability as a condition for arbitration.  Any arbitration agreement also guarantees independent arbitrators, and requires the medical care provider to be responsible for the arbitration costs.  Arbitration agreements in this context must also permit joint and several liability, and permit the right to appeal the ultimate arbitral decision.   The MMA specifically provides for the defendants to bear the costs of arbitration.

In summary, the Supreme Court held that for all medical malpractice arbitration agreements to be enforceable, they must not:

  • alter the costs to be borne by the defendants,
  • limit the plaintiff’s recovery, and or
  • limit the fairness incentives of the MMA statutory scheme.

Arbitration agreements that violate any of the above will be void as a matter of public policy.

Do You Have a Case?

The medical malpractice attorneys at Feldman Legal Group can review your arbitration agreement and let you know if it violates the MMA. You can reach us at 813-639-9366 or use our online form.

Hospitals and healthcare providers sometimes agree to MMA voluntary binding arbitration. It limits and caps non-economic damages at $250,00 in exchange for admitting liability (negligence).

If you have a possible or potential medical malpractice claim against a hospital or healthcare provider and have executed an arbitration agreement, it must be reviewed for consistency with the MMA voluntary arbitration section, of Fla. Stat. §§ 766.207, 766.212.

Our Attorneys Can Provide You A Second Opinion

If you have been turned away or turned down by any attorney reviewing your case because of an executed arbitration agreement, let us provide a second opinion and review the case and the arbitration clause or arbitration agreement.

To learn more, see the MMI arbitration procedure and requirements.