Rejection of arbitration agreement in medical malpractice case

In December of 2016, the Florida Supreme Court issued a rejection of an arbitration agreement in a medical malpractice case regarding a stillborn infant. As reported by News 4 Jax, in their decision, justices stated that an arbitration agreement that was signed by Lualhati Crespo, whose son was stillborn, and the physician group Women’s Care Florida was invalid.

In 2013, the Crespo family filed a medical malpractice lawsuit, and subsequently made a request for binding arbitration in accordance with a procedure outlined under state law. However, Women’s Care Florida denied the request, arguing that Mrs. Crespo had previously signed an agreement that would result in binding arbitration by way of a different procedure.

Most members of the Supreme Court concurred with Mrs. Crespo, stating that the agreement she signed was “void as against public policy,” because it contained terms that were advantageous to Women’s Care Florida, including provisions relevant to the choice of an arbitration panel. According to the majority opinion, arbitration agreements that modify the cost and award of the Medical Malpractice Act (MMA) provisions contradict the intent of the law.

In response, Women’s Care Florida asked the Florida Supreme Court to rethink its denial of the arbitration agreement. This represents one example of many cases where the Florida appeals courts have struggled with decisions surrounding arbitration agreements in medical malpractice matters. The lawsuits usually arise from requests by providers that patients or their relatives sign agreements to have any disagreements resolved through arbitration instead of by possible jury trials.