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In Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath, L.L.P. v. Malay, 39 Fla. L. Weekly D495b (Fla. 4th DCA March 5, 2014), the 4th DCA held that a law firm's financial relationship with a doctor is discoverable on the issue of bias. During the deposition of plaintiff's treating physician, who was expected to give expert testimony at trial, the physician denied having records and provided "nebulous testimony" with respect to the number of his patients who were represented by the law firm. Under those circumstances, the trial court ordered the law firm to provide a list of all payments made to the doctor in connection with present or past litigation over the last three years.

The law firm filed a petition for writ of certiorari to quash the discovery order. The 4th DCA denied the petition, finding that the trial court did not depart from the essential requirements of the law.

 


 

This summary was prepared by Susan Fuller of our firm.


Susan Fuller

 

 


39 Fla. L. Weekly D495b

 

Torts -- Automobile accident -- Discovery -- Law firm's financial relationship with plaintiff's treating physician -- Trial court did not depart from essential requirements of law by ordering law firm to provide list of payments made to plaintiff's treating physician over last 3 years

LYTAL, REITER, SMITH, IVEY & FRONRATH, L.L.P., Petitioner, v. JANET MALAY, as Personal Representative of the Estate of MAURICE BAKER, Respondent. 4th District. Case No. 4D13-4016. March 5, 2014. Petition for writ of certiorari to the Circuit Court for the Nineteenth Judicial Circuit, Indian River County; Cynthia Cox, Judge; L.T. Case No. 312012CA000078. Counsel: Margaret Bichler of Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath, West Palm Beach, for petitioner. Heather Wallace-Bridwell of Peterson Bernard, Stuart, for respondent.

(Damoorgian, C.J.) In the underlying negligence action arising from an automobile accident, the trial court ordered the law firm to "provide a list of all payments made to Dr. Theofilos [the plaintiff's treating physician] over the last 3 years (all client or patient information shall be redacted)." The discovery encompasses all payments made in connection with the present or past litigation. The doctor in this case is expected to provide expert opinions at trial. The law firm petitions for a writ of certiorari to quash the discovery order.

A law firm's financial relationship with a doctor is discoverable on the issue of bias. See Morgan, Colling & Gilbert, P.A. v. Pope, 798 So. 2d 1, 2 (Fla. 2d DCA 2001) ("Limiting discovery of this information would affect the truth-seeking function of a jury, for the failure to present any ultimately admissible information would diminish the jury's right to assess the potential bias of the witnesss."). At his deposition, the doctor denied having any records and provided "nebulous testimony" in connection with the number of his patients who were represented by the law firm. Under these circumstances, the law firm is an appropriate source of this information. Steinger, Iscoe & Greene, P.A. v. GEICO Gen. Ins. Co., 103 So. 3d 200, 206 (Fla. 4th DCA 2012). The trial court did not depart from the essential requirements of law.

Petition Denied. (Taylor and Levine, JJ., concur.)







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