'Dead People Don't Move,' a Witness Says; More

Wayne J. Guglielmo, MA

Disclosures

June 18, 2019

In This Article

Three-Strikes Law Not Working in This State, Report Says

Despite a long-standing three-strikes law that should have taken their licenses away, hundreds of Florida doctors over the past decade have collectively paid out more than $460 million in medical malpractice claims, involving nearly 1400 patients, says a TV station's investigative report.[5]

One of the most egregious cases uncovered by the reporting team involved St Petersburg general surgeon Ernest C. Rehnke, who was found to be liable in 16 malpractice claims since 2000, including six cases involving patient deaths. His insurance payouts to date have totaled $2.6 million, according to state insurance records.

"The three-strikes-and-you're-out law basically says it takes three verdicts in court against doctors to take their licenses away," says Dennis Rogers, a Clearwater trial attorney. Often, doctors such as Rehnke circumvent the three-strikes law, however, by settling their cases out of court or before a jury can reach a verdict. According to Rogers, more than 95% of med-mal cases in Florida are handled in this fashion.

The Florida Medical Board, meanwhile, complains that it doesn't have the authority to police doctors. "We'd like to see greater authority, greater ability to screen the physicians," says dermatologist Steven Rosenberg, the Board's chairman. "I think the board of medicine would be happy to review anything the legislature asks us to."

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