Brown, the Fourth DCA denied a petition for writ of certiorari to quash a discovery
order denying a non-party doctor’s objections to a subpoena duces
tecum, because a law firm’s relationship with a doctor is discoverable
on the issue of bias.
The underlying case is a negligence action arising from an automobile accident.
The plaintiff’s attorney referred the plaintiff to Dr. Brown who
treated the plaintiff under a letter of protection. The defendant later
subpoenaed the person with the most billing knowledge at Dr. Brown’s
office to produce documents regarding patients previously represented
by plaintiff’s attorneys. The doctor objected to the discovery arguing
Rule 1.280(b)(5) prohibited the discovery and that the doctor’s
relationship with co-counsel for the plaintiff is not discoverable because
that firm did not directly refer the plaintiff to the doctor.
The Fourth DCA noted that a “party may attack the credibility of
a witness by exposing a potential bias.” Discovery of the financial
relationship between a treating doctor and the plaintiff’s attorneys
in present and past cases is permissible because there is the potential
for bias. The Fourth DCA found that Rule 1.280(b)(5) limits discovery
to an approximation of the portion of an expert’s involvement as
an expert witness. The court found that Rule 1.280(b)(5) “neither
addresses nor circumscribes discovery of the financial relationship at issue in
The Fourth DCA further noted that whether the law firm directly referred
the plaintiff to the treating physician does not determine whether discovery
of the doctor/law firm relationship is allowed. “A doctor’s
referral arrangements with a law firm in other cases is a proper source
for impeachment.” The Fourth DCA, however, also noted that, like
retained experts, treating physicians should be protected from overly-instrusive
financial discovery. “Trial courts have broad discretion to balance
the interests involved and generally should not permit extensive discovery
of a treating physician’s finances. The Fourth DCA found that the
requested discovery in
Brown was limited to a reasonable time frame and was not overly intrusive.