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TALLAHASSEE — In a legal battle drawing attention from medical groups across the country, the U.S. Supreme Court could be close to deciding whether to hear a Florida case about the disclosure of medical records.

The case focuses on whether hospitals are required to disclose certain records to plaintiffs during medical-malpractice lawsuits, or whether those records are shielded by a federal patient-safety law. Southern Baptist Hospital of Florida Inc., which operates as the Baptist Health System in the Jacksonville area, filed a petition in May asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case after the Florida Supreme Court ruled that disputed records should be disclosed.

The court is expected to consider the case Monday during a private conference, according to an online docket.

The underlying lawsuit that led to the records fight was filed against the Baptist system by the family of patient Marie Charles and alleged that negligence in her care caused a severe neurological injury, according to court documents.

The state Supreme Court decision was rooted in a 2004 Florida constitutional amendment, which was backed by plaintiffs’ attorneys and was intended to provide access to what are known in the health-care industry as “adverse medical incident” reports. The Baptist system and its supporters, however, argue that at least some records are shielded from disclosure by the federal law.

The federal law, the 2005 Patient Safety Act, allows hospitals to voluntarily submit information about medical errors to what are known as “patient safety organizations” and offers certain confidentiality protections. The law was aimed, at least in part, at encouraging health providers to submit information that could be analyzed and used to prevent future medical errors.

The Baptist system and its supporters say the Florida Supreme Court ruling threatens that system and contend federal law should trump state law on the disclosure issue.

Attorneys representing the Charles family argued in a brief last month that the U.S. Supreme Court should not take up the case, saying hospitals could use the federal Patient Safety Act to wrongfully prevent the release of records.

This article is brought to you by Sobel Legal. The article is written by: Jim Saunders, as seen on