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January 29, 2004

TALLAHASEE — Today the business community announced its opposition to the constitutional amendment currently being proposed by the Florida Medical Association (FMA) that would cap attorney fees.

AIF believes that these types of amendments shouldn’t be attached to the state’s Constitution. Barney T. Bishop, III, chief lobbyist for AIF, stated, “The business community is steadfast in our collective belief that the Florida Constitution is a sacred document that should only be amended occasionally and wisely, which means when the state’s governance structure or limitations on state powers have to be dealt with. Everything else is superfluous.”

Over the past few months, the business community and the insurance industry have attempted to convince the FMA leadership that its proposed constitutional amendment capping attorneys’ fees is unsupportable and even counterproductive. It won’t lower insurance rates and amendments being proposed in retaliation by the trial lawyers could damage the health care delivery system on which all Florida citizens rely.

A letter from AIF is being sent to more than 40,000 doctors across Florida asking them to not support the FMA amendment. It explains that the FMA amendment is premature since it doesn’t allow the recent medical malpractice legislation the time necessary to have a meaningful impact.

Meanwhile, the trial lawyers are pursuing passage of three amendments in retaliation against the FMA that would:

  • take away the license of any doctor who is found to have committed three or more acts of medical malpractice

  • make public all adverse medical incident reports and peer review records for all facilities and providers, including the records of incidents that resulted in death or injury

  • force all doctors to charge all patients the lowest rate they charge any of their patients

The letter goes on to say that the three amendments by the trial lawyers against the FMA and the amendment by the FMA against the trial lawyers is a “pox on both of your houses.”

“The integrity of Florida’s Constitution is under attack,” said Guy Marvin, president of the Florida Insurance Council. “We need to protect our Constitution from groups seeking to sidestep the ‘checks and balances’ found in the legislative process.”

The issue of constitutional amendments and how they are placed on the ballot and the effect they can have on Florida’s economy will certainly be a focal point during the upcoming session.