Record release law for medical liability suits upheld in court

AMA Wire
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A federal appeals court has upheld a state law that requires plaintiffs to release their relevant protected health information before proceeding with allegations of medical liability.

In Murphy v. Dulay, the appeals court overturned a lower court ruling that said a Florida law requiring the release of relevant health information was impermissible under the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

The state law requires authorization from a person seeking to bring a medical liability lawsuit so that the prospective defendant may obtain documents and conduct interviews with the plaintiff’s other medical professionals on matters pertinent to the liability claim.

The appeals court found that the written authorization form required by the Florida law “is fully compliant with the HIPAA statute and its regulations.”

This state law is patterned after a Texas law passed in 2003 that has enabled information sharing during early stages of medical liability claims. The purpose of the law is to screen out frivolous lawsuits and promote early settlement of claims that do have merit.

As a result of that law, “the frequency of meritless claims has dropped substantially,” the Litigation Center of the AMA and State Medical Societies said in a friend-of-the-court brief (log in) submitted in this case. Other parties in the brief include the Florida Medical Association and the Texas Medical Association.

Other benefits the brief highlights are improved access to care, an increase in physicians generally, and a greater number of specialists serving at-risk patients and rural communities.

Visit the AMA Litigation Center Web page to learn more about this case and other key medical liability cases in which it has been involved.

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