Appellate Court Orders District Court to Allow Defendant’s Medical Expert to Examine Plaintiff in Personal Injury Case

The Supreme Court of the State of Texas recently released an opinion and issued a rarely utilized type of order allowing an expert retained by the defense in a personal injury lawsuit to perform a medical examination on the plaintiff during an ongoing premises liability lawsuit. The defense’s request, which was previously denied by the trial court, was made to allow the defense to present the most credible responses to the plaintiff’s claims at trial. Since the high court’s order was issued in a proceeding that is ongoing, the plaintiff’s claim for damages may still prevail, although he will be unable to prevent the defendant’s proposed expert from performing a medical examination on him before the case proceeds to trial.

The Plaintiff Was Injured Outside a Grocery Store Operated by the Defendant

The plaintiff in the case of Rodriguez v. H.E.B. Grocery Company filed a personal injury lawsuit after he alleged that he was injured when he tripped on an unsecured plate in the parking lot of a property that was operated by the defendant. In response to the plaintiff’s lawsuit, the defendant retained a medical expert to ascertain the source of the plaintiff’s alleged injuries and offer a medical opinion as to whether the injuries were caused by the plaintiff’s fall on the defendant’s property. After reviewing the medical records of the plaintiff but without performing a physical examination on him, the defendant’s expert offered a report that concluded the plaintiff’s injuries were likely the result of a pre-existing condition, rather than the injuries sustained on the defendant’s property, as the plaintiff alleges.

The Plaintiff Also Retains an Expert Who Performs a Physical Examination

In addition to the medical expert retained by the defense, the plaintiff also hired a doctor to serve as an expert witness and offer an opinion on the source of the plaintiff’s injuries. The plaintiff’s expert performed a medical examination and would presumably testify that the plaintiff’s injuries were caused by the slip and fall on the defendant’s property. After the plaintiff’s expert was proposed to the court, the defendant requested that their expert be permitted to perform a physical examination on the plaintiff, arguing that a jury would give more weight to the plaintiff’s expert testimony merely because he was able to perform a full physical examination. The district court denied the defendant’s request, leading them to file an emergency appeal to the state supreme court.

State Supreme Court Grants a Writ of Mandamus, Ordering the District Court to Allow the Examination

The defendant’s request on appeal was for a writ of mandamus, which is a rarely used procedural tool that allows a higher court to order a lower court or government agent to perform a certain task. Generally, a party would be required to wait for a final judgment to invoke the appellate power of the higher court, but in certain instances the higher court can assume jurisdiction to overrule a lower decision while the matter is still pending in the lower court. Finding that the defense would be unjustly prejudiced by allowing the case to proceed toward a jury trial without permitting the defendant’s expert to examine the plaintiff as the plaintiff’s own expert had, the appellate court granted the writ of mandamus, forcing the lower court to honor the defendant’s request. As a result of this ruling, the plaintiff’s claim will be permitted to proceed toward a trial, although the defense will have the opportunity to bolster their expert testimony with the results of the physical examination.

Florida Expert Witness Requirements

In a South Florida personal injury case, either party may be inclined to retain an expert to offer their opinion on an element of the plaintiff’s claim or an affirmative defense offered by the defendant. Florida courts allow for both parties to retain an expert witness and elicit their testimony for the jury’s consideration if certain requirements are met. Under Florida Statute Section 90.702, experts may offer their opinion on any subject in a case that is appropriate for expert testimony, meaning a matter in which the testimony would assist the jury in determining any fact that is relevant to the elements of a claim or defense.

Florida courts must also determine that an expert is adequately qualified to express an expert opinion on the matter at hand. A failure by a party to have an expert witness accepted in a Miami personal injury claim can sometimes be fatal to their case, since some claims may require an expert’s opinion to be heard by a jury. South Florida personal injury plaintiffs should ensure that their proposed expert and their testimony will be accepted by the court prior to submitting them for the court’s approval.

Are You a Victim of Negligence?

If you or a family member has been injured or killed as a result of someone’s negligence, your case may require expert testimony to give you the greatest chance of recovering fair compensation for your loss. The experienced South Florida negligence attorneys at Friedman, Rodman & Frank retain knowledgeable and respected experts in the relevant fields. Our dedicated Miami personal injury attorneys accept clients in Miami and throughout South Florida in many types of negligence cases, including premises liability cases. If you have been seriously injured, contact us toll-free at 877-448-8585 or use our web form to set up a free consultation. Se habla Español / Nou Parlé Creole.

More Blog Posts:

State Supreme Court Reverses Judgment for Defendant in Wrongful Death Claim, May 12, 2016, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog

State Supreme Court Rules that Post-Mortem Misconduct by Doctor Is Medical Malpractice, Reverses Damages Award, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published June 13, 2016.

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