2005 Florida Statutes
Voluntary binding arbitration of medical negligence claims.
766.207 Voluntary binding arbitration of medical negligence claims.--
(1) Voluntary binding arbitration pursuant to this section and ss. 766.208-766.212 shall not apply to rights of action involving the state or its agencies or subdivisions, or the officers, employees, or agents thereof, pursuant to s. 768.28
(2) Upon the completion of presuit investigation with preliminary reasonable grounds for a medical negligence claim intact, the parties may elect to have damages determined by an arbitration panel. Such election may be initiated by either party by serving a request for voluntary binding arbitration of damages within 90 days after service of the claimant's notice of intent to initiate litigation upon the defendant. The evidentiary standards for voluntary binding arbitration of medical negligence claims shall be as provided in ss. 120.569(2)(g) and 120.57(1)(c).
(3) Upon receipt of a party's request for such arbitration, the opposing party may accept the offer of voluntary binding arbitration within 30 days. However, in no event shall the defendant be required to respond to the request for arbitration sooner than 90 days after service of the notice of intent to initiate litigation under s. 766.106 Such acceptance within the time period provided by this subsection shall be a binding commitment to comply with the decision of the arbitration panel. The liability of any insurer shall be subject to any applicable insurance policy limits.
(4) The arbitration panel shall be composed of three arbitrators, one selected by the claimant, one selected by the defendant, and one an administrative law judge furnished by the Division of Administrative Hearings who shall serve as the chief arbitrator. In the event of multiple plaintiffs or multiple defendants, the arbitrator selected by the side with multiple parties shall be the choice of those parties. If the multiple parties cannot reach agreement as to their arbitrator, each of the multiple parties shall submit a nominee, and the director of the Division of Administrative Hearings shall appoint the arbitrator from among such nominees.
(5) The arbitrators shall be independent of all parties, witnesses, and legal counsel, and no officer, director, affiliate, subsidiary, or employee of a party, witness, or legal counsel may serve as an arbitrator in the proceeding.
(6) The rate of compensation for medical negligence claims arbitrators other than the administrative law judge shall be set by the chief judge of the appropriate circuit court by schedule providing for compensation of not less than $250 per day nor more than $750 per day or as agreed by the parties. In setting the schedule, the chief judge shall consider the prevailing rates charged for the delivery of professional services in the community.
(7) Arbitration pursuant to this section shall preclude recourse to any other remedy by the claimant against any participating defendant, and shall be undertaken with the understanding that damages shall be awarded as provided by general law, including the Wrongful Death Act, subject to the following limitations:
(a) Net economic damages shall be awardable, including, but not limited to, past and future medical expenses and 80 percent of wage loss and loss of earning capacity, offset by any collateral source payments.
(b) Noneconomic damages shall be limited to a maximum of $250,000 per incident, and shall be calculated on a percentage basis with respect to capacity to enjoy life, so that a finding that the claimant's injuries resulted in a 50-percent reduction in his or her capacity to enjoy life would warrant an award of not more than $125,000 noneconomic damages.
(c) Damages for future economic losses shall be awarded to be paid by periodic payments pursuant to s. 766.202(9) and shall be offset by future collateral source payments.
(d) Punitive damages shall not be awarded.
(e) The defendant shall be responsible for the payment of interest on all accrued damages with respect to which interest would be awarded at trial.
(f) The defendant shall pay the claimant's reasonable attorney's fees and costs, as determined by the arbitration panel, but in no event more than 15 percent of the award, reduced to present value.
(g) The defendant shall pay all the costs of the arbitration proceeding and the fees of all the arbitrators other than the administrative law judge.
(h) Each defendant who submits to arbitration under this section shall be jointly and severally liable for all damages assessed pursuant to this section.
(i) The defendant's obligation to pay the claimant's damages shall be for the purpose of arbitration under this section only. A defendant's or claimant's offer to arbitrate shall not be used in evidence or in argument during any subsequent litigation of the claim following the rejection thereof.
(j) The fact of making or accepting an offer to arbitrate shall not be admissible as evidence of liability in any collateral or subsequent proceeding on the claim.
(k) Any offer by a claimant to arbitrate must be made to each defendant against whom the claimant has made a claim. Any offer by a defendant to arbitrate must be made to each claimant who has joined in the notice of intent to initiate litigation, as provided in s. 766.106 A defendant who rejects a claimant's offer to arbitrate shall be subject to the provisions of s. 766.209(3). A claimant who rejects a defendant's offer to arbitrate shall be subject to the provisions of s. 766.209(4).
(l) The hearing shall be conducted by all of the arbitrators, but a majority may determine any question of fact and render a final decision. The chief arbitrator shall decide all evidentiary matters.
The provisions of this subsection shall not preclude settlement at any time by mutual agreement of the parties.
(8) Any issue between the defendant and the defendant's insurer or self-insurer as to who shall control the defense of the claim and any responsibility for payment of an arbitration award, shall be determined under existing principles of law; provided that the insurer or self-insurer shall not offer to arbitrate or accept a claimant's offer to arbitrate without the written consent of the defendant.
(9) The Division of Administrative Hearings is authorized to promulgate rules to effect the orderly and efficient processing of the arbitration procedures of ss. 766.201-766.212.
(10) Rules promulgated by the Division of Administrative Hearings pursuant to this section, s. 120.54, or s. 120.65 may authorize any reasonable sanctions except contempt for violation of the rules of the division or failure to comply with a reasonable order issued by an administrative law judge, which is not under judicial review.
History.--s. 54, ch. 88-1; s. 30, ch. 88-277; s. 36, ch. 91-110; s. 114, ch. 92-33; s. 4, ch. 92-278; s. 2, ch. 94-161; s. 304, ch. 96-410; s. 1801, ch. 97-102; s. 89, ch. 99-3; s. 62, ch. 2003-416.