Jessica M. Karmasek Jun. 6, 2013, 5:30pm

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Legal Newsline) -- Among the bills Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed into law Wednesday, one aims to improve the state's legal climate and another will provide several state entities with funds for various housing and foreclosure-related programs and services.

Scott signed Senate Bill 1792, which deals with medical malpractice litigation.

Specifically, the bill provides clarification on how expert witnesses are used in medical malpractice cases.

Currently, expert witnesses can testify if they have practiced in the "field," but they don't have to have practiced in the same "specialty" that's in question.

SB 1972 allows only expert witnesses to be able to testify if they have practiced in the same exact specialty that is being litigated.

The legislation also allows subsequent doctors who may be deposed to retain an attorney.

Today, when a plaintiff begins proceedings against a doctor, usually there are several subsequent doctors who also treated the same patient.

From that point, attorneys from both sides can engage the subsequent doctors to gain more information for their cases. These doctors -- who may have little relation to these cases -- can be pulled into a legal proceeding with no legal representation.

Scott said the new law will create a system in which health care providers and patients rights are both equally protected.

"Every decision that I make comes down to one word -- jobs," the governor said, adding that the bill should improve the business climate in the state.

Also Wednesday, Scott signed Senate Bill 1852, which appropriates the funding Florida received from the nationwide mortgage settlement.

In February 2012, 49 state attorneys general, including Florida's Pam Bondi, and federal officials reached a deal with Wells Fargo & Co., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Citigroup Inc., Ally Financial Inc. and Bank of America Corp.

The settlement institutes new protections for homeowners and nationwide reforms to mortgage servicing standards.

Scott said the funds will be used in accordance with the settlement agreement, which includes: legal assistance, housing-related counseling, housing rehabilitation, housing assistance for the homeless, and housing assistance provided to the elderly and people with disabilities.

"As Florida's housing market continues to improve, I applaud the work of Attorney General Pam Bondi and the Florida Legislature for helping Floridians. This settlement will provide important relief to Florida homeowners and enable our state to get its fair share of the relief being provided across the country," the governor said. "Funding in this legislation will also help various affordable housing initiatives and will help make affordable housing more available to Florida families.

"We are working to ensure that Florida's economy continues to grow, and Florida's housing market continues to improve."

Bondi thanked both Scott and state lawmakers for working with her to make sure that the remaining $200 million of Florida's portion of the settlement will be used in accordance with the multi-state agreement.

"When I entered the $25 billion National Mortgage Settlement, it was imperative that the proceeds be used to address Floridians' housing-related needs," she said in a statement.

The $200 million is part of a total estimated $8.4 billion in relief that Bondi obtained for Floridians.

According to the latest report released by Joseph A. Smith Jr., the settlement's monitor, banks have reported that they have provided more than 111,000 Floridians with more than $8.6 billion in relief. An additional $315 million in principal reduction, in the form of loan modifications, is underway.

The numbers reported by the banks still must be confirmed by Smith in an independent audit.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at

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