But this time, right before Harrell’s visit, a staff member in Dr. Baird’s office in Jacksonville, Fla., called and asked her to watch a video on the medical group’s website. She clicked a link and saw an attractive actress in an immaculate office explaining a new policy. All of Dr. Baird’s patients, Harrell learned, needed to sign a form agreeing to “binding arbitration,” a legal concept that meant she was waiving her right to a jury trial in the event of medical malpractice.
When she objected, the woman on the phone told her she could see Dr. Baird one more time, but she’d have to find a new practice after that. In the exam room the doctor began as he always had, by asking Harrell about her two daughters. He was apologetic about the new requirement but said it was out of his hands. His office and dozens of other locations in his medical group had been sold to Lindsay Goldberg, a New York-based private equity firm with more than 100 physician offices and surgery centers across Florida. This was the new reality, he said, whether he liked it or not.
Harrell was heartbroken, and not just because she trusted Dr. Baird. Harrell is a lawyer—she has her own appellate firm in Jacksonville—so giving up a constitutional right would’ve been bad enough. What made it even worse was that she recognized every page of the agreement the office was asking her to sign. In 2016 she’d successfully argued a case that involved a woman who’d sued her gynecologist, a doctor with a large group called Women’s Care Florida, after signing an almost identical form. It was a horrible story: Her client, who had symptoms of early labor, arrived late to an appointment and was turned away, with the doctors’ office rescheduling for four days later. A day before the new appointment, she gave birth to a stillborn baby. Under normal circumstances, the patient would’ve been able to go through the state’s legal process, which meant either agreeing to arbitration or moving to trial. Women’s Care, though, insisted on enforcing the binding arbitration agreement, which meant she (as well as her husband and then unborn child) had already given up their rights.
Harrell and a colleague, Bryan Gowdy, had argued during the appeal that the Women’s Care agreement was unenforceable under state law. The Florida Supreme Court sided with them, saying the agreement was void. And yet somehow here it was again. In the three years since she’d won, Women’s Care had been bought by Lindsay Goldberg, which then bought Dr. Baird’s practice, too. The medical group had continued using the form—in the hope, she guessed, that even an unenforceable arbitration agreement would be enough to dissuade a malpractice victim from suing.
It was an outrage, she thought, as she walked out of Dr. Baird’s office. “Why would I agree to that after hearing the Supreme Court say it was unfair to patients?” Harrell asked in a Zoom interview with Bloomberg Businessweek from her home. In the background, Archer, a rescue greyhound who once raced under the name Miami Hurricane, lazed on a white sofa. Harrell’s face tightened as she spoke. “People shouldn’t be put in this take-it-or-leave-it position after having been shown a five-minute video on arbitration propaganda.”
THE argument for arbitration hinges on the rising costs imposed by malpractice lawsuits, which some policymakers and doctors say have made medicine more litigious and led to worse care. One in three babies in the U.S. is delivered via C-section, a procedure that, compared with vaginal delivery, is more expensive for patients, requires a longer recovery period, and carries higher risks of infection and blood loss—but which is less likely to result in a lawsuit if complications occur during labor, at least according to the American Congress of Obstetricians & Gynecologists. The group has said that limiting physician liability would cause C-section rates to drop.
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
The Food Fight in Fake Meat
Beyond Meat was an early leader. But rival Impossible Foods and others want to eat its lunch
The U.K. Wants to Clean Up Space
The amount of debris in orbit is an increasing danger—and a potential market opportunity
Prices for a warehouse staple are at a record, buoyed by the boom in e-commerce
THE MAN WHO KEEPS THE FAR RIGHT ONLINE
While Amazon and its peers have stopped supporting certain prominent White supremacists and conspiracy theorists, Nick Lim has stepped in
Stopping the Race to the Bottom on Taxes
The U.S. is energizing a global effort to put a floor under corporate tax rates
The Guggenheims Of NFTs
Perhaps you’ve heard of nonfungible tokens? These collectors already have millions of dollars’ worth
Reincarnation And Realpolitik
China, India, and the U.S. are vying to influence the selection of the next Dalai Lama
WAITING FOR ELON
It’s not easy to compete with Miami and Austin for high-tech jobs. But Adelanto, Calif., which boasts a light regulatory environment, an enthusiastic city manager, and plenty of dirt, is giving it a shot
LAW & CRYPTO
Arthur Hayes faces U.S. prosecution over how he ran his overseas Bitcoin exchange
In Hot Pursuit
Chris Urmson’s company, Aurora, has merged with Uber’s self-driving unit to take on Waymo
SPYKE AND MIKE
SPYKE & MIKE GO TO THE PET STORE
A Healthy Berry Very Easily Turns Decadent
SIGNS of the SEASON
You Say Tomato, We Say Florida’s Finest
Is Olive the New Orange?
Florida Growers Court New Alternative Crop
Florida-Grown Coffee? How UF Scientists Are Using AI To Serve Up the Possibilities
MOST OF THE WORLD’S COFFEE is grown in tropical regions. However, a changing climate could allow coffee to grow farther north — for example, in Florida. In April, all HCYCP participants pick up their tree kits to start their project.
HERO NEVER GAVE UP ON MISSING GIRL, 13!
Clever cop goes motel to motel in search of perv who allegedly took her
Health and Happiness Have No Age Limit
Everybody wants to live a fulfilling life, age gracefully and enjoy the golden years. Maintaining your physical and mental health plays a crucial role in that endeavor. That means it’s important not only to eat right and keep your body moving but also to keep your mind stimulated as well. In this Senior Edition of Central Florida Health News, we touch on some of these very important issues.
National Infant Immunization Week
Many have received immunizations throughout their lifetime, but it’s often taken for granted how much of an impact these vaccines have on the lives of those in our communities, counties, state and even country. The Florida Department of Health in Polk County recognizes April 24-May1 as National Infant Immunization Week. This is an annual observance promoting the benefits of immunizations for children from birth to age 2.
DATA: FLORIDA'S TEXTING WHILE-DRIVING LAW RARELY ENFORCED
A Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputy was heading east on Interstate 4 in his red Dodge Charger on a brilliantly sunny afternoon in Florida when he saw him: A young driver behind the wheel of a Jeep texting on his phone.
JW MARRIOTT MARCO ISLAND BEACH RESORT
JW MARRIOTT MARCO ISLAND BEACH RESORT