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Florida Fourth DCA rules that absolute immunity for communications during judicial proceedings does not provide immunity to a psychotherapist for revealing communications regarding a patient contrary to section Fla. Stat. § 490.0147

On April 24, 2019, in Estape v. Seidman, No. 4D17-3336, the Florida Fourth DCA reversed a summary judgment entered for a defendant psychotherapist in a case in which the plaintiff alleged that the doctor had breached a fiduciary duty by disclosing confidential communications during the litigation of a child custody matter.  The trial court granted the summary judgment on the basis that the defendant doctor’s disclosure had been made in the context of a court proceeding and he therefore had absolute immunity. The Fourth DCA noted that § 490.0147, Florida Statutes, establishes a statutory psychotherapist-patient privilege and provides some limited exceptions to the application of the privilege, but none of the exceptions applied in this case.  The Fourth DCA concluded that “[t]he assertion of a right to disclose communications pursuant to a litigation privilege would add another exception to the statutory grant of confidentiality, which would be inconsistent with the plain meaning of the statute. Therefore, the common law privilege must give way. See § 2.01, Florida Statutes.