Florida Supreme Court Issues Important Pro-Plaintiff Ruling In Personal Injury Case
Before the trial of any personal injury lawsuit, both sides have the right to discovery, i.e., the right to demand certain information relevant to the case from one another or third parties. There are, of course, limits to the type of information that may be discovered. For example, if you are the plaintiff, you cannot ask the defendant to turn over their email correspondence with their attorney, as that is protected by legal privilege. Nor can you simply go on a “fishing expedition” and demand information that is not related to the substance of your lawsuit.
Plaintiff Sought Details of Financial Relationship Between Defendant’s Insurance Company, Expert Witnesses
The Florida Supreme Court recently issued an important decision regarding the discovery rights of plaintiffs in personal injury cases. The underlying lawsuit, Dodgen v. Girjalva, involves a personal injury claim arising from an automobile accident. During discovery, the plaintiff demanded certain documents regarding the financial relationship between the defendant’s insurance company–which was not a party to the lawsuit–and the expert witnesses scheduled to testify for the defense.
Essentially, the plaintiff wanted to know if the insurance company had ever previously paid the expert witnesses for their testimony. The defense objected to this request, but the trial judge issued an order compelling production of the information. The defendant then filed a petition with the Fourth District Court of Appeals to quash the trial judge’s discovery order.
The Fourth District denied the petition but it did certify the case to the Supreme Court. The reason for this was that a 2017 Supreme Court decision, Worley v. Central Florida Young Men’s Christian Association, held that a defendant could not use discovery to obtain information about the financial relationship between a plaintiff’s law firm and their treating physician. But the Worley ruling never addressed discovery requests made by the plaintiff.
In the Dodgen case, the Supreme Court declined to reconsider its position in Worley. But it also said that Worley did not prevent the plaintiff in this case from seeking discovery of the financial relationship between the defendant’s insurance company and expert witnesses. The Court noted Worley focused on protecting the confidentiality of the doctor-patient relationship, which had no counterpart on the defense side of a personal injury lawsuit.
The Supreme Court also pointed to a prior decision from the Fifth District Court of Appeal, which directly addressed the same issue as the Dodgen case, namely whether the financial relationship between a defendant’s insurance company and expert witnesses was discoverable. The Fifth District held that it was. Although that case was decided before Worley, again the Supreme Court said its decision did not apply to the plaintiff’s rights to discovery.
Speak with a Florida Personal Injury Lawyer Today
Discovery is just one part of the often lengthy and complex process of litigating a personal injury claim. If you are involved in such a case and need legal advice from an experienced Deerfield Beach car accident attorney, Contact Leifer & Ramirez today to schedule a free consultation.