Would checkbooks and energy be better spent forking over evidence that is likely discoverable anyway?

What Happens to an Injured Plaintiff who Skips a Deposition and Fails to Hand Over Pertinent Medical History?

Author: EJ Scarillo

 

Case Citation: Carr v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins., 312 F.R.D. 459 (N.D. Tex. 2015).

 

Employee/Personnel/Employer implicated: Plaintiff who was Involved in a Personal Injury Case

 

 

eLesson Learned: Do not dodge discovery requests!

 

Tweet This: Plaintiff stymies State Farm’s attempts to schedule deposition and collect medical information. Is this a sanctionable offense? To be determined.

 

Imagine the all too common discovery issue: one party requests certain discovery and receives nothing in return. The party requesting the discovery follows up with another request, but again hears only static on their end. Frustrated, the party then moves to compel the discovery. The court yawningly hears the evidence and issues a banal opinion, which concludes an order to compel the deficient discovery.

 

In Carr v. State Farm Mut. Auto Ins., the nameless party can be substituted in for a personal injury plaintiff who seemed a little too keen to avoid taking a deposition and tried to avoid providing blatantly discoverable evidence relating his personal injury claim. Specifically, the plaintiff was seeking to recover from his insurance company, State Farm, on an underinsured motorist claim. State Farm, being naturally inclined to avoid paying such a claim, requested the plaintiff’s medical history subsequent to the accident. State Farm also requested information pertaining to whether the plaintiff had any other insurance coverage. To no avail, State Farm diligently attempted to collect these documents. Alas, the court was asked to step in.

 

The plaintiff here valiantly tried to raise a novel privacy defense to avoid handing over his medical records. Further, he tried to claim the information relating to his other insurance was not relevant under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26. However, for the deposition, the plaintiff did not bother to mount a defense.

 

Simply put, the plaintiff would have better conserved his energy (and checkbook) by providing the discovery early on, as well as rescheduling the deposition. In life, as well as before a judge, “I do not know” is usually not the most prudent answer to a direct question. Yet, this is the exact response the plaintiff offered when asked why he did not reschedule the deposition he failed to attend.

 

Further, while patients have an obvious interest in maintaining the confidentiality of their medical records, State Farm’s request for medical records was narrowly tailored. Considering that they only asked for the plaintiff’s medical history subsequent to the date of the accident, it was glaringly apparent that this medical history would be discoverable. The same goes for answering whether the plaintiff maintained insurance other than his State Farm Policy.

 

All in all, the only potential silver lining for the plaintiff is that he may avoid being sanctioned. The court (in a rather charitable move) suspended its judgment on whether the plaintiff would have to pay State Farm’s expenses related to making the motion to compel, including attorney’s fees. Bluntly, there was no legally cognizable reason for the plaintiff not providing this discovery, other than neglect. A word of advice to the wary, save your and the court’s time by providing discovery to narrowly tailored discovery requests.

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