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Florida Court Discusses Attorney-Client Privilege Regarding a Plaintiff’s Treatment

October 15, 2019

by Donaldson & Weston

The law affords plaintiffs in car accident cases certain rights and protections, so that they may pursue their case without fear of disclosure of privileged information. One of the protections afforded is the attorney-client privilege. The attorney-client privilege allows a plaintiff to communicate with his or her attorney freely, with the assurance that the contents of any communication will not be disclosed.

A Florida appellate court recently analyzed the attorney-client privilege in the context of a plaintiff’s medical treatment in a car accident case, ultimately holding that the privilege protected information regarding the relationship between a plaintiff’s attorney and the plaintiff’s treating physician. If you sustained injuries in a car accident in South Florida, you should meet with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney regarding your options for pursuing damages.

Procedural Background

Reportedly, the plaintiff was a pedestrian injured in a car accident with the defendant, an attorney, while the defendant was driving a company car. During discovery, the defendant sought information regarding the relationship between the plaintiff’s attorney and the plaintiff’s treating physician. The plaintiff objected to the requests, but the trial court found that the request did not seek information that was protected under the attorney-client privilege. As such, the plaintiff provided the defendant with information regarding payments made from his attorney’s firm to the plaintiff’s treating physician and letters of protection.

It is alleged that the defendant then sought to depose the plaintiff’s attorney regarding his firm’s financial relationship with the plaintiff’s physician. The plaintiff again objected, but the court overruled the objection, and the plaintiff’s attorney was deposed. Subsequently, the plaintiff filed a motion to preclude information regarding his attorney’s payments to his physician at trial, which the court denied. Prior to trial, the plaintiff’s attorney withdrew as counsel. The plaintiff’s attorney was called to testify at trial, and testified regarding her firm’s financial relationship with the plaintiff’s treating physician over the years. The jury found the defendant negligent but apportioned 57 ½ % of the fault to the plaintiff. The plaintiff moved for a new trial, arguing the trial court erred in allowing testimony from his attorney. The trial court denied the motion and entered a final judgment for the defendant. Plaintiff appealed.

Attorney-Client Privilege

On appeal, the court noted that after the discovery phase of the case but before the trial, the Florida Supreme Court held that the financial relationship between a plaintiff’s treating physician and the plaintiff’s attorney’s law firm is not discoverable. Specifically, information regarding whether the plaintiff’s attorney referred the plaintiff to a particular physician is protected. Additionally, agreements between the plaintiff’s law firm and treating physicians, and information about other clients who have been referred to treating physicians are protected as well. The court also stated that the trial court erred in ordering the plaintiff’s attorney to testify at trial, finding that in doing so, the court made her testify to the prejudice of her client. As such, the court reversed the trial court ruling and remanded the case for a new trial.

Consult an Experienced South Florida Car Accident Attorney Today

If you were injured in a South Florida car accident, it is important to consult a seasoned car accident attorney who will fight diligently on your behalf. The South Florida personal injury attorneys of Donaldson & Weston will aggressively pursue any compensation you may be able to recover.  We can be reached at 772-266-5555 or 561-299-3999 to set up a free and confidential consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Court Finds Insufficient Evidence of Alcohol Addiction to Impose Liability on a Bar Following a Drunk Driving Accident, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, January 15, 2019