Updated: Sep 14, 2022
I represent injured clients all over the State of Alabama for a variety of reasons, and in my research for a recent case I discovered something that shocked me about the Alabama Medical Liability Act (AMLA). The AMLA covers a whole host of items that I do not believe most people in the general public would believe.
What is the AMLA?
Well before we discuss what the AMLA can cover, lets first address what it is: The Alabama Medical Liability Act (AMLA) is the Medical Liability Act of 1987 and can be found at § 6–5–540 through 552. This act, as described in the legislative intent, was intended to make lawsuits against healthcare providers more difficult due to rising costs of healthcare based on increasing lawsuits for injuries.
Is Fraud by a Physician Covered by the AMLA?
Unfortunately, it appears that fraud by a physician that occurs during the "course of medical treatment" is covered by the AMLA and requires the Plaintiff to jump through the additional hoops of the AMLA when filing a claim.
In Benefield v. F. Hood Craddock Clinic, which was decided by the Alabama Supreme Court in 1984 and is still good law, the Court found that Fraud by a Doctor was governed by the AMLA regardless of whether the Plaintiff plead their case as medical malpractice if the fraud was related to medical care. In this case, the defendant doctor was alleged to have intentionally and fraudulently mislead the patient that injuries suffered during a procedure were caused by naturally occurring biological problems rather than anesthesia procedure they performed.
The Court specifically held that, "the fraudulent misrepresentations which Benefield alleges her doctors made occurred, if at all, during the course of her treatment by her physicians." As a result, the Court found that her case was time barred by the statute of limitations for Medical Malpractice.
What about Sexual Assault?
Well fortunately for Alabama Citizens, if a doctor engages in sexual conduct with a patient it is no longer covered by the AMLA if done during the course of medical treatment. Yes, I said no longer covered.
In, Mock v. Allen, the Alabama Supreme Court found that that sexual assault occurring in the doctors office was covered by the AMLA. That case was decided in 2000, and was upheld in O'Rear v. B.H. which was decided in 2011, and remained the law for 15 years. Luckily, in Ex Parte Vanderwall, the Alabama Supreme Court saw the error in that decision and overturned it. In Vanderwall, the Court held that the AMLA addresses providing medical services to patients and the failures to meet the standard of care when providing those services, and that the doctors actions in Vanderwall was not providing medical services.