Muller, the Second District granted a writ for certiorari review and quashed
a discovery order compelling the plaintiff to produce his military records.
In December 2012, a Wal-Mart truck struck the plaintiff, who later filed
the lawsuit. Discovery revealed that the plaintiff served in the Army
for eleven years before being honorably discharged, and that he had been
injured three times. The plaintiff was not seeking damages for aggravation
of any of his military related injuries. Wal-Mart sought production of
the plaintiff's DD Form 214, which itself describes sensitive information
contained in the document, as well as his military personnel file and
military medical records. The plaintiff objected based on his right to
privacy under Article I, section 23 of the Florida Constitution, and asked
that the court, at a minimum, conduct an in camera review of the records.
The court eventually ordered that the records be produced.
The Second District stated that Article I, section 23 of the Florida Constitution
"undoubtedly expresses a policy that compelled disclosure through
discovery be limited to that which is necessary for a court to determine
contested issues." The court further noted that when a party challenges
a discovery order on constitutional right to privacy grounds, the trial
court must conduct an in camera review to determine whether the requested
materials are relevant to the issues in the underlying action. An order
directing production of such records without the required determination
may cause irreparable harm that cannot be remedied on direct appeal, and
is properly reviewable by certiorari.
The Second District found that while the military records may assist in
Wal-Mart's defense, they likely contain information that is not relevant
to the plaintiff's claims but which would be highly intrusive to his
privacy interests if disclosed. As such, the court ruled that the irrelevant
documents containing such information must be segregated from any relevant
documents that are discoverable. The trial court departed from the essential
requirements of the law by compelling the plaintiff to produce all military
records without first conducting an in camera review.