Florida Appeals Court Refuses to Limit Discovery Regarding Doctor’s Relationship With Law Firm in Car Accident Negligence Case: Brown v. Mittelman

In Brown v. Mittelman, a plaintiff who was injured in a car accident sought medical treatment from a physician following the collision. The plaintiff’s attorney apparently referred the plaintiff to the medical provider. In addition, the doctor reportedly treated the plaintiff under a letter of protection agreement. Such an agreement is generally used to help an injured person pay for medical care they would not be able to afford otherwise. In many cases, a letter of protection is sent to a medical provider by a plaintiff’s attorney who agrees to remit payment for services following an accident settlement.

After the plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the defendant, the defendant sought to discover certain billing documents from the non-party physician. The doctor objected to the defendant’s request, and a trial court overruled the medical provider’s objections. After that, the lower court compelled discovery of the evidence that was sought by the defendants. In response, the non-party physician filed a writ of certiorari seeking to quash discovery with Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeals.

According to the physician, Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.280(b)(5) prohibited discovery of the information sought by the defendant because there was no evidence to support the notion that the plaintiff’s law firm directly referred the plaintiff to him for treatment. The appellate court disagreed and stated a lawyer’s financial relationship with a medical provider is discoverable because the relationship may result in bias. The Fourth District added that jurors should be allowed to review evidence related to such a relationship because the doctor may have a financial interest in the outcome of the plaintiff’s negligence lawsuit.

Additionally, the court stated that, although the rule at issue was designed to allow a jury to review information regarding the income earned by a physician who serves as an expert witness, it was not limited to such an instance. Instead, the court held the rule could be used to disclose otherwise unknown financial arrangements for impeachment purposes. Because of this, the court found that it was irrelevant whether the law firm referred the plaintiff to the doctor at issue. Instead, the relevant inquiry related to whether or not the doctor had a financial interest in the outcome of the case. Finally, the appeals court stated the trial court had broad discretion in controlling discovery and refused to grant certiorari in the case.

If you were hurt in a South Florida motor vehicle collision, you may be entitled to recover damages for your harm. The veteran lawyers at Friedman, Rodman & Frank, P.A. help car accident and other personal injury victims recover the damages they deserve based upon the severity of their injuries. To discuss your case with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney, contact Friedman, Rodman & Frank, P.A. online or call us at (305) 448-8585.

Additional Resources:

Brown v. Mittelman, Fla: Dist. Court of Appeals, 4th Dist. 2014

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