A plaintiff in an auto negligence lawsuit can’t get the medical records of nonparty patients or the financial records of a defense expert, the Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled.
The panel on Wednesday vacated orders issued by St. Lucie Circuit Judge Dwight Geiger approving the subpoenas.
Ian Robinson of Adams | Coogler in West Palm Beach represents the expert witness, Dr. Jordan Grabel, a neurosurgeon at Good Samaritan Medical Center in West Palm Beach. Robinson said he and co-defendants Kristina M. Brana and Roscox Corp., a Port St. Lucie dental laboratory, consolidated their writs of certiorari to quash Geiger’s orders.
Adolfo Roura attempted to do an end-around Florida laws restricting access to medical records of nonparties and financial records of expert witnesses, Robinson said. Geiger approved subpoenas targeting more than 40 insurance companies that hired the neurosurgeon to conduct compulsory medical examinations, or CMEs, in other cases at Good Samaritan and other hospitals where the doctor performed surgery, Robinson said.
Roura wanted the insurance records to determine what Grabel earned from the CMEs, and he wanted the hospital records to determine what kind of surgeries Grabel performed that didn’t relate to Roura’s case, Robinson said.
Considering the medical records of Grabel’s patients, the unsigned opinion of the Fourth District said Roura failed to show he complied with the notice provision of state law, “which requires notice to patients whose medical records are sought before issuance of a subpoena.”
Robinson said the issue had to do in part with Geiger’s practice of allowing subpoenas on the condition that the medical records be redacted.
The Fourth District cited in its opinion Coopersmith v. Perrine, a 2012 Fourth District case on the privacy of nonparties. That opinion cites the case of Graham v. Dacheikh from the Second District in 2008.
“Graham rejected redaction as a substitute for the statutory notice to the nonparty patients, noting that there was no argument made that notification would not be possible, and in fact compliance with other requests revealed that it was possible,” the Fourth District said in Coopersmith.
The issue of Grabel’s financial records was more clear cut. The Florida Rules of Civil Procedure explicitly bars the practice, the Fourth District stated. And case law states the only exception is for an unusual or compelling circumstance.
“The trial court’s orders … do not state any basis for a finding of unusual or compelling circumstances in this case,” the court said.
Fourth District Judges Robert Gross, Burton Conner and Mark Klingensmith issued the unanimous opinion.
Carri Leininger of Williams, Leininger & Cosby in North Palm Beach represented Brana and Roscox.
Bard Rockenbach of Burlington & Rockenbach in West Palm Beach represented Roura. They had no comment.