Section makes donation to defeat Amendment 3

first_imgThe Bar’s Trial Lawyers Section has donated $50,000 to a consumer group to help in its campaign against a proposed constitutional amendment that would limit contingency fees in medical malpractice cases.The section’s contribution to the Consumer Federation of the Southeast was approved by the Bar’s Executive Committee on September 13, and federation head Walter Dartland and section officials met September 15 to discuss the best ways to use the funds.The proposed Amendment 3, backed by the Florida Medical Association, would limit contingency fees to 30 percent of the first $250,000 awarded in a malpractice case, and to 10 percent on recoveries above that amount.“We view this amendment as undermining citizens’ access to the courts and are strongly opposed to it,” said section Chair Thomas Masterson. “The name of it is the Claimants Right to Fair Compensation, and if you read the summary, it sounds like it is an amendment intended to help [malpractice] victims. That is not the goal of the Florida Medical Association. Their goal is to prevent victims from finding counsel who will represent them in medical malpractice claims, and many of the leaders have as much as admitted that.”Noting the section represents both plaintiff and defense lawyers, Masterson said it agrees with the dissent from Justice Fred Lewis in the Supreme Court ruling that allowed the amendment to go on the ballot. Lewis held that the ballot summary language and the amendment language were misleading because the real intent was to prevent those injured from obtaining lawyers by making it economically unfeasible to lawyers to handle such cases.“That’s really the reason we are so opposed to it. It doesn’t do what is sounds like it is going to do. . . . It sounds like it’s taking money from lawyers and giving it to victims. But 90 percent of nothing is nothing,” Masterson said. “It’s snake oil.”Dartland, head of the Consumer Federation of the Southeast, said his group, which is affiliated with the Consumer Federation of America, agrees with the section’s outlook.“My feeling is it’s tough enough now for consumers to get representation, especially in medical malpractice cases that have limited damages,” he said. “This is just going to make it harder for those people to get any kind of decent representation.”Amendment 3 is part of what is expected to be a bitter campaign between doctors and lawyers this fall. The Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers, responding to the FMA campaign, gathered signatures and also placed two amendments on the ballot. One would require the state to rescind the medical license of any doctor found, in court or an administrative proceeding, to have committed three acts of malpractice. The other would make public adverse incident reports involving medical facilities and practitioners, which are now confidential.Both the FMA and the AFTL expect to spend millions of dollars campaigning on the amendments this fall. October 1, 2004 Regular News Section makes donation to defeat Amendment 3 Section makes donation to defeat Amendment 3 The measure would limit contingency feeslast_img