Litigation can be an arduous and expensive process for all involved parties. To reduce the potential burden, many members within the healthcare industry include clauses within their agreements with patients that stipulate the use of arbitration in place of a trial should a dispute arise. Essentially the agreement asks the patient to waive their right to a jury trial.
Arbitration does not involve the use of a judge nor a jury. Instead, usually three, qualified, arbitrators serve as a panel that hears the arguments of both sides – including opening and closing statements. The arbitration proceeding is less formal than a standard trial but decisions are usually binding. The involved parties, lawyers included, generally need to spend less time preparing for arbitration than they do for trial. Additionally, very few time and cost-adding motions are made prior to arbitration.
While arbitration may seem like a great option in situations where savings and time are of the essence, the question remains, is an agreement to arbitrate between a health care provider and a patient, valid?
Recently, the Florida Supreme Court was asked to reconsider a medical malpractice case where the Court ruled that an arbitration agreement was void. Months earlier, the same Court rejected an arbitration agreement between Women’s Care Florida and Lualhati Crespo, who delivered a stillborn son in 2011. A medical malpractice lawsuit was filed after the incident and the plaintiffs requested a binding arbitration process by way of the State’s medical malpractice law. However, the defendants requested binding arbitration as spelled out in a previously agreed upon document that was signed by the plaintiffs.
While both parties agreed to the use of arbitration, the difference was that the defendants wanted to enforce certain provisions held within the previously signed document like the right to select the arbitration panel in full.
The Court originally threw out the document the defendants were seeking to have enforced based upon a finding that it was void as against public policy because it included terms that were clearly favorable to the defendants.
In its reconsideration request, the defendants have argued that the ruling violated the state and federal constitutions by encroaching on the right to contract. The plaintiffs countered with an argument that the agreement was not a valid contract because it was found to run afoul of public policy.
The validity of arbitration agreements in lawsuits over health care remains a controversial topic since many feel that such agreements take away the rights of injured people to obtain fair compensation from providers that make serious medical errors that cause great harm.
Medical malpractice can have devastating effects that last a lifetime. If you have been injured by a physician’s neglect, attorneys Charles Gilman and Briggs Bedigian will work to get you the full compensation to which you are entitled. Call 800-529-6162 today or contact them online for a free case evaluation. They handle cases in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.
About the Author