Last October 4, 2014, the Court of Appeals of Puerto Rico decided that “forum selection clauses” are illegal and cannot be included in the documents to be signed by a patient as a requirement prior to receiving medical attention. This is the case of Hospital Español Auxilio Mutuo v. ELA de Puerto Rico, KLAN 201301848.
These so-called forum selection clauses have been inserted in the documents to be signed by patients by hospitals and medical offices in Puerto Rico, usually in very fine print at the bottom of the hospital’s administrative documents.
These classes have the ill-advised intent of preventing medical malpractice victims from having their cases seen by a jury in Federal Court, forcing them to file their cases only in Puerto Rico State Court.
The Court of Appeals reversed in its entirety and remanded back the Court of First Instance the decision. In doing so, the Court of Appeals validated the Puerto Rico’s Patients Procurement Office regulation prohibiting the use of forum selection clauses within said medical documents.
Even more important, the written opinion by the Court of Appeals went beyond and recognized that even without the regulation, the forum selection clauses are illegal as they go against Puerto Rico public policy.
This case has been a big triumph for patients in Puerto Rico and abroad and lays the foundation for new cases in favor of medical practice victims.