Florida Supreme Court Could Consider Medical Malpractice Battle

Feb 8, 2016
Originally published on February 8, 2016 9:07 am

The Florida Supreme Court could decide whether a physician is able to pursue a "bad faith" claim against an insurer in a medical-malpractice case that led to a $35 million arbitration award.

First Professionals Insurance Co. this week filed a notice seeking Supreme Court review of a Dec. 1 ruling by the 1st District Court of Appeal. That decision said physician Mohamad R. Samiian could pursue a bad-faith claim against the insurer.

The issue stems from a liposuction procedure that Samiian performed in 2004 on a patient, who later that evening suffered a cardiac arrest and died.

The 1st District Court of Appeal ruling did not identify the patient, but other court records and Jacksonville media reports after the death said he was Martin Gottlieb, who operated a medical-billing company. The man's estate gave notice in 2005 that it would file a medical-malpractice lawsuit.

First Professionals Insurance, which was Samiian's insurer, agreed to settle and delivered a check to the estate's attorney for the policy limits.

But later, an attorney representing Samiian offered to submit the case to binding arbitration, with the offer not contingent on a limitation of damages, according to the appeals-court ruling. Ultimately, an arbitration panel awarded $35.3 million to the estate and Gottlieb's survivors.

Samiian in 2010 filed a case against the insurer, arguing it had acted in "bad faith" in handling the medical-negligence claim. A three-judge panel of the appeals court said Samiian could pursue bad-faith arguments related to the decision to go to arbitration, but the panel made clear it was not deciding the merits of the case.