February 7, 2023

Hospital employees face turning over personal text messages in malpractice case

The employees at Jacksonville's Ascension St. Vincent's, who are not defendants in the case, argued in part that their privacy rights would be violated. An appellate panel rejected the request.

An appeals court Wednesday rejected an attempt by employees of Ascension St. Vincent’s hospital to shield text messages from being disclosed in a medical malpractice case against a former physician at the Jacksonville medical center.

A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal sided with former patients who filed a consolidated malpractice lawsuit last year against physician R. David Heekin.

As part of the case, the plaintiffs sought to obtain employees’ “observations of Dr. Heekin’s purportedly impaired behavior as communicated by text message on their personal cell phones,” Wednesday’s ruling said.

The employees, who are not defendants in the case, sought a protective order, arguing in part that their privacy rights would be violated. A circuit judge denied the request for a protective order, and the appellate panel backed that decision.

“Under the particular facts of this case, petitioners (the employees) have failed to show that they have a clearly established global right to privacy in the personal text messages that is sufficient to outweigh the tailored need for discovery. … No Florida court has ever recognized an absolute right to privacy in text messages,” said the nine-page ruling, written by Judge Thomas Winokur and joined by Judges Timothy Osterhaus and Robert Long.

The ruling did not provide details of the underlying medical-malpractice case, but Jacksonville media reports said Heekin, an orthopedic surgeon, has been accused in lawsuits of botching surgeries while he had health problems.

Tags: News Service of Florida

Florida Business News

Florida News Releases

Florida Trend Video Pick

For trailblazing Miami attorney Yolanda Cash Jackson, it's OK to be first, but never last
For trailblazing Miami attorney Yolanda Cash Jackson, it's OK to be first, but never last

As the first Black woman to hold the position of chair of The Miami-Dade Beacon Council, the economic engine for the county, Yolanda Cash Jackson checks off another first on her list.

Video Picks | Viewpoints@FloridaTrend

Ballot Box

Should Floridians selling real estate tell buyers if the property has been damaged from flooding?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Other (Please share your comments in the comment section below)

See Results

Florida Trend Media Company
490 1st Ave S
St Petersburg, FL 33701
727.821.5800

© Copyright 2023 Trend Magazines Inc. All rights reserved.