Dr. Fullerton made a horrible mistake. He testified for a patient in a medical malpractice case. The defendants won the case and turned Dr. Fullerton into the Florida Medical Association "stating, among other things, that his opinion testimony fell below reasonable professional standards, that it was made “for the sole purpose of propagating a frivolous lawsuit for financial gain,” and that he specifically “presented false testimony and false theories about stroke in the hope to prove negligent medical care in an 80-year-old diabetic with previous strokes who suffered a stroke despite appropriate care.” Appellees concluded their letter with a request to the FMA to issue an opinion addressing whether Fullerton’s testimony “fall[s] below standards,” and, if so, to report its findings to the Board of Medicine for appropriate disciplinary action in order “to prevent the Medical profession from being terrorized by similar experts.”
Fullerton (who was not a member of the FMA) responded with litigation, alleging " that the statements in the letter were false and were submitted for processing by the FMA’s Expert Witness Committee (EWC) of FMA’s Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs (CEJA), which was organized for the purpose ‘of intimidating, hindering, and deterring persons, including plaintiff Fullerton, from appearing as expert witnesses on behalf of plaintiffs in cases involving medical malpractice,’ thereby depriving injured plaintiffs of the ability to pursue medical-malpractice lawsuits. He continued that because of the actions of FMA and the defendant doctors, who acted in concert to inhibit expert testimony in medical malpractice cases, he had suffered damages and would suffer irreparable harm to his reputation and to his capacity to earn income in the future if the defendant FMA’s CEJA and EWC programs were permitted to continue their operations."
The doctors and the FMA claimed they were immune from suit under the peer review statute in Florida. The trial court dismissed the case.
The Court of Appeals reversed, saying "We find nothing in Florida’s medical peer-review statutes reasonably supporting an interpretation that a peer review committee is shielded from liability for an act taken by the committee on a claim that a physician’s testimony in a medical-malpractice action fell below acceptable professional standards."
Read the entire opinion here.
Read my prior post about Dr. Lustgarten’s fight with the North Carolina Medical Board here.
Congradulations to ATLA/s Center for Constitutional Litigation for their efforts on behalf of Dr. Fullerton. ATLA is fighting a similar case in Texas.