Florida Court Discusses a Plaintiff’s Privacy Rights in a Car Accident Case

In lawsuits arising out of car accidents, it is not uncommon for a defendant to argue that a plaintiff suffered from a pre-existing condition and did not sustain actual harm in the collision. Thus, a defendant may seek medical records from a plaintiff that pre-date the crash. There are limits to what is discoverable, however, as discussed in a recent Florida ruling in which the court denied a motion to compel ten years of medical records in a car accident case on the grounds it violated the plaintiff’s right to privacy. If you were injured in a crash, it is advisable to consult a skillful Florida car accident attorney to discuss your options.

Background of the Case

It is reported that the plaintiff was injured in a car accident involving the defendant in 2014. She subsequently pursued negligence claims against the defendant in a lawsuit filed in 2018. Unfortunately, the plaintiff’s health declined, and in 2019 she was on hospice care and suffering from dementia and was unable to sit for a deposition. Thus, the defendant sought production of all of the plaintiff’s medical records for the past ten years. The plaintiff objected, arguing the request was overbroad and violated her constitutional right to privacy. Originally, the trial court sustained the objection, but it was later overruled, and the plaintiff was compelled to disclose the requested records. The plaintiff then petitioned the appellate court for certiorari.

The Right to Privacy in Personal Injury Cases

A petition for certiorari can only be granted if the person requesting it shows a departure from the essential requirements of the law, which will result in material harm for the rest of the case that cannot be repaired post-judgment. Upon review, the court noted that a patient’s medical records are entitled to confidential status pursuant to the right to privacy afforded by the Florida Constitution. As such, an order compelling production of medical records satisfies the element of irreparable harm.

The court went on to state that a court that compels the production of medical records without first reviewing them to determine whether their production would require the disclosure of information not relevant to the matter departs from the essential tenets of law. The court further explained that the trial court should have first determined whether the requested records were relevant and, if so, balanced the need for such information against the plaintiff’s privacy interests, which are protected by the Florida Constitution. As the trial court failed to take these measures prior to compelling the plaintiff to produce the records in question, the appellate court quashed the order.

Speak to a Seasoned Florida Attorney

Car accidents can cause significant injuries, and many people involved in crashes are able to recover significant damages for their losses. If you were hurt in a collision, you should speak to a lawyer to assess your rights. Jarrett Blakeley is a seasoned Florida car accident attorney, and if you retain his services, he will fight to help you protect your interests. You can contact Mr. Jarrett Blakeley through the form online or at (800) 602-5000 to set up a meeting.

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