FL Supreme Court Lifts Cap on Malpractice Fees

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It's a battle that's been brewing for years, doctors and lawyers arguing over who wins in a medical malpractice lawsuit

Thursday Florida’s high court ruled lawyers can charge their clients whatever fee they wish.

"We think it opens the courthouse doors for clients, and that's the way it should be. The people of this state, patients should have the right to access the courts and should have their right to have their choice of a lawyer," said Debra Henley, Deputy Executive Director of the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers.

The ruling introduces a way around the constitutional amendment approved in 2004 that limited how much money medical malpractice lawyers could receive.

"It allows attorneys to receive more of a malpractice judgment than the patient, and of course the physician is concerned about that," said Lisette Mariner of the Florida Medical Association.

Florida doctors say they're taking their frustration and turning it into something they hope will benefit patients: offering a patient waiver.

If signed, a patient is agreeing if something goes wrong they won't sue for more than $250,000 for emotional distress.

"We hope that patients will have more access to physicians. If physicians have this waiver in their offices and the patient signs it, we'll have more access for patients in Florida," said Mariner.

The Florida Medical Association, which represents thousands of doctors, says it now plans to go around the state handing out the waiver forms.