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Insurer’s Doctor in Florida Uninsured Motorist Lawsuit Did Not Have to Reveal Financial Information Concerning Frequency of His Work for Insurer or its Attorneys

A femal doctor or nurse checking the blood pressure of a patientAfter an injured person has finished his or her medical treatment following a car accident, he or she may be asked to submit to further examination by a so-called “independent” medical examiner.

A recent appellate case explored the rules of discovery as they pertain to an injured person’s inquiry into how often a particular doctor sees patients at the request of the plaintiff’s insurance company or the law firm that represents the insurer.

How the Case Arose

In the case of Grabel v. Sterrett, the plaintiffs were a husband and wife who filed suit against their insurance company following a car accident with an uninsured motorist. The insurance company retained a certain doctor to perform a compulsory medical examination.

Thereafter, the plaintiffs served a notice of deposition and a subpoena duces tecum on the doctor, asking that he bring several items with him to the deposition. Included on the list were copies of all billing invoices the doctor had submitted to the insurance company or its attorneys, a statement of the total amount of money that the insurance company and its attorneys had paid to the doctor for his services as an expert witness on their behalf, and evidence as to the percentage of the doctor’s work that was performed on behalf of any defendants, insurance companies, or defense law firms. The requests pertained to the period 2009 through 2014.

The insurance company filed a motion for a protective order in the trial court, averring that the plaintiffs’ requests were unduly burdensome, not reasonably limited in time, and beyond the permissible scope of discovery pertaining to expert witnesses.

The Decision of the Trial Court

The trial court overruled the insurance company’s objections, but it limited the scope of the plaintiffs’ requests to a three-year period. The insurance company and the doctor sought a writ of certiorari from the Fourth District Court of Appeal of the State of Florida.

The Appellate Court’s Ruling

After considering the issues between the parties, the appellate court granted the petition for relief filed by the insurance company and the doctor, holding that the trial court’s discovery order clearly ventured beyond that which was permissible under Florida R. Civ. Proc. 1.280.

Since compliance with the trial court’s order would have presented a “cat-out-of-the-bag” situation that could not be corrected in a postjudgment appeal, the court found that certiorari was appropriate. In so holding, the court relied upon prior case law to the effect that financial discovery such as that sought by the plaintiffs herein served only to reemphasize that which would be readily apparent to the jury during cross-examination.

To Speak to an Experienced South Florida Injury Attorney

Since a wide array of issues can arise in even a “simple” car wreck case, the best course of action for those who have been hurt in a crash is to consult with an attorney who is experienced in handling automobile accident cases. The law firm of Cohn & Smith represents injured people throughout South Florida, and we welcome the opportunity to review your case. To schedule an appointment regarding your Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, or Pompano Beach car accident case, call us today at 954-431-8100.

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