AMA lends support to Florida physicians accused of defamation
■ The doctor filing suit is also challenging the Florida Medical Assn.'s peer review process.
By Mike Norbut — Posted July 25, 2005
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The American Medical Association has filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of three Florida physicians who have been accused of defaming a California doctor when they asked the Florida Medical Assn. to review the expert witness testimony he offered for a plaintiff in a medical malpractice trial.
The brief, filed in Florida's 1st District Court of Appeal, says the physicians were legally and ethically bound to make their allegation and that self-policing peer review programs like the FMA's Expert Witness Committee protect the health care system.
If the defendants failed to report what they thought was false testimony, it "may have resulted in the suspension or revocation of their licenses," the brief reads. "This court should not issue a ruling in this matter that would deter or obstruct these ethical and legal obligations."
Florida neurologists Jonathan B. Warach, MD, and Pravinchandra C. Zala, MD, and internist Joseph O. Krebs, MD, were accused of defamation last year by John Fullerton, MD, a San Francisco internist. The FMA also was named in the lawsuit.
The three physicians were defendants in a medical malpractice case in which a jury found no negligence. After the verdict, the doctors requested the FMA review Dr. Fullerton's and another physician's testimony under the peer review program.
Dr. Fullerton's suit alleges that the defendants hurt his professional credibility when they requested a review of his testimony. It also challenges the peer review process, which he has called an intimidation tactic that targets physicians who testify for plaintiffs.
A circuit court judge dismissed all of the charges against the physicians and all but one charge, a defamation claim, against the medical association earlier this year. The judge recently threw out the final charge against the FMA. Dr. Fullerton has appealed the ruling regarding the physicians to the higher court.