Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Caps Backer's Insurer Settles Malpractice Claim

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Caps Backer's Insurer Settles Malpractice Claim

Article excerpt

Byline: Paul Pinkham, Times-Union staff writer

The insurer for a vocal proponent of medical malpractice caps in Florida has settled a malpractice claim with a Jacksonville woman for the maximum amount allowed by his policy.

The settlement, coming amid legislative wrangling over doctors' malpractice insurance, is more than the $750,000 cap discussed by Gov. Jeb Bush and Senate President Jim King, R-Jacksonville, and shows why caps are wrong, said Steve Pajcic, the woman's attorney.

But the surgeon Pajcic sued said the case is an example of what's wrong with Florida's tort system. Jefferson Edwards of North Florida Surgeons, which led the physicians walkout over the malpractice issue in April, said the case was settled because his insurance company feared going to court.

"They settled without my consent," said Edwards, who declined to give the settlement amount. "They made a financial decision that many, many others are forced to make rather than risk dealing with the tort system."

State lawmakers return to Tallahassee tomorrow to continue grappling with the malpractice crisis.

Tina Autry, 39, fell into a coma for more than a month after Edwards performed gallbladder surgery on her in 1998. Autry had pancreatitis from a preliminary arthroscopic procedure, and the subsequent gallbladder surgery performed by Edwards "caused Mrs. Autry's pancreatitis to go completely out of control," Pajcic said.

Autry initially sued the manufacturer of the arthroscopic device based on notations by Edwards that she had a bile duct tear that necessitated doing the surgery immediately. But Edwards later testified in a deposition there was no tear, prompting Pajcic to drop the lawsuit against the manufacturer and sue Edwards. Pajcic said when he asked for X-rays to examine, he was told they were lost.

"It is this kind of inappropriate surgery compounded by a changed story and a missing record that results in malpractice recoveries," Pajcic said. …

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