Sunset falls over the Florida Supreme Court building
Sunset falls over the Florida Supreme Court building (Phil Sears)

The Florida Supreme Court sided with a medical malpractice plaintiff Thursday in reversing the Third District Court of Appeal on access to hospital records in a case against Cedars Healthcare Group Ltd. in Miami.

Justice Peggy Quince, writing for a unanimous court, said Cedars could not restrict the scope of records sought by Myriam Ampuero-Martinez, who filed a wrongful death claim following the death of her father after surgery at Cedars Medical Center, which was sold to the University of Miami.

The trial court allowed her discovery request, which Cedars appealed. Third District Judge Richard Suarez wrote the 2011 opinion quashing the trial court order on grounds the request for adverse medical incident records wasn’t limited to records that were of “the same or substantially similar condition, treatment or diagnosis as the patient requesting access.”

Suarez cited a Florida law to support this view, and Ampuero-Martinez appealed, claiming a conflict with Florida Hospital, Waterman v. Buster, a 2008 Supreme Court decision.

The discovery request falls under Amendment 7, a 2004 statewide referendum that gave patients access to any records made or received by a health care facility on adverse medical incidents.

About three years before the Third District, Quince noted the Supreme Court declared a section of state law invalid.

She said the Third District’s reliance on the law “impermissibly conflicts with this court’s decision.”

“In this case, Cedars Medical Center was arguing that because it went out of business, it no longer had to comply with the Florida Constitution,” said Lincoln Connolly at Rossman, Baumberger, Reboso, Spier & Connolly in Miami, who represented Ampuero-Martinez. The Supreme Court “affirmed patients’ constitutional right to know about what happens to them in our hospitals and at the hands of our health care providers.”

He called the decision “a victory for patients’ rights and the ability of Florida’s citizens to have a say in their democratic government through the constitutional initiative process.”

Cedars attorney Stephen Bronis at Carlton Fields Jorden Burt in Miami did not respond to a request for comment by deadline.