Plaintiff Referrals Are Not DiscoverablePersonal Injury
In the cases of Brent Dodgen v. Kaitlyn Grijalva, Case Number SC19-1118 (Fla. October 14, 2021) and Steven Younkin v. Nathan Blackwelder, Case Number SC19-385 (Fla. October 14, 2021), the Florida Supreme Court upheld the Worley decision and held that the financial relationship between a defendant’s insurance company and an expert witness retained by the defense is discoverable. By implication due to upholding the Worley decision, the same is not true for plaintiff’s where a plaintiff’s referrals to experts is not discoverable and neither is any financial relationship between an expert and the plaintiff’s law firm.
Facts And Analysis
Worley v. Central Florida YMCA, 228 So. 3d 18 (Fla. 2017) has been a difficult case for insurance companies to swallow. In Worley, the defense sought discovery on the existence of a referral relationship between the plaintiff’s attorneys and the plaintiff’s treating physicians. Such discovery (cases testified and how much the expert was paid) was already permitted by Allstate v. Boecher where an insurance company was a party to the litigation. Naturally, insurance companies wanted to discover the same thing for plaintiffs. However, in Worley, the Florida Supreme Court held that attacking the credibility of treating physicians did not require discovery of a possible relationship between the physician and the plaintiff’s law firm.
Worley also held that a referral from a plaintiff’s lawyer to a physician is protected by attorney-client privilege.
In any event, these cases centered on insurance companies challenging orders to produce financial discovery between defense experts, the liability insurer, and the defense law firms. The primary argument raised by the insurance companies was that it is not fair for the defense to have to produce financial discovery with experts while plaintiffs do not (“disparate treatment of plaintiffs and defendants”).
As in Worley, these cases also turn on the fact that “treating physicians” are distinguishable from “hired” experts. Hence, a treating physician really does not have a “mirror image” expert on the other side. Further, the relationship between a law firm and a plaintiff’s treating physician is not analogous to the relationship between a party and its retained expert as pointed out in Worley.
As much as insurance companies want to complain that this is unfair, it should help to put a little perspective on this issue. We cannot forget what insurance is. The insurance industry takes in billions of dollars every year in premium. Those premiums are supposed to provide coverage to the policyholders for a variety of pooled risks that no one wishes to have happen to them.
The insurance companies are supposed to use those premiums to pay for valid claims when they exist. An example of this would be when a homeowner has a home destroyed by a fire. So long as the homeowner did not intentionally set the fire, the homeowner is supposed to be compensated for the loss.
When it comes to car accidents, people do not choose to be injured. So long as the accident is not the plaintiff’s fault, the defendant’s insurance limits are supposed to be available to pay for damages suffered by the plaintiff. When there is a dispute over liability, there is a trial on whether the defendant is responsible. Insurance companies have taken the defense of claims to a completely different level by injecting into virtually every case that the plaintiff’s medical bills are excessive and that the plaintiff is exaggerating injury claims. The check and balance on this is supposed to be trial on whether a jury believes the plaintiff’s injuries arose from the accident or not. The treating physicians are supposed to be asked about the treatment that they provided along with opinions regarding why such treatment was necessary. The treating physicians are doctors and not hired experts in the same sense that the insurance company’s experts. Permitting the same kind of financial discovery on a plaintiff’s treating physicians would serve only to discourage physicians from helping people who are injured in accidents because too much of their lives would opened up. On the other hand, someone paid to say the same thing time and time again in case after case by an insurance company should be subject to a different level of scrutiny.
While there may be people who disagree with this seemingly “disparate” treatment, it should be remembered that insurance companies have become professional litigators while many plaintiffs will only have a single claim over the course of a lifetime. There is a social need to level the playing field between regular people and multi-billion dollar insurance companies.
Talk To A Lakeland Personal Injury Lawyer About Your Case
If you have been injured in a car accident much like those in these cases, Russo Law is here to help you with your case. We offer a free consultation to talk about the case and decide what legal avenues are available to pursue for you. We only take personal injury cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that there are no fees or costs unless money is recovered for you. Schedule your free consultation with us today!