Not every piece of evidence that may seem relevant at first glance is admissible, or even discoverable, in a Florida personal injury case. A piece of evidence may be undiscoverable or inadmissible for any number of reasons, including its lack of relevance, the fact that it constitutes hearsay, the prejudicial nature of the evidence, or the fact that it invades the privacy rights of a party.
As a general rule, Florida courts have to balance competing concerns when it comes to evidence; while a piece of evidence may be extremely probative of one point, it may be unduly prejudicial to they opposing party and therefore must not be used at trial.
Medical Records in Florida Cases: Poston v. Wiggins
As a general rule, medical records “enjoy a confidential status by the right to privacy in . . . the Florida Constitution.” However, the recent case of Poston v. Wiggins, the District Court of Appeals of Florida, First District, weighed in on the matter, explaining that medical records are not always protected.
Poston, an elderly woman who wears glasses and takes several prescription medications, ran into Wiggins’ car while backing out of a parking space. Wiggins filed suit against Poston, alleging that Poston’s negligence in backing out of the parking spot caused her injuries. Poston denied liability for the accident and did not file a counter-claim alleging that she was injured.
In a sworn statement, Poston stated that she was not injured due to the accidents. However, later, Poston stated that her osteoarthritis had gotten worse since the accident. Wiggins argued that these two statements were inconsistent and then sought Poston’s medical records from both before and after the accident in order to determine what Poston’s medical history looked like both before and after the accident.
The trial court granted Wiggins access to Poston’s medical records, acknowledging the inconsistencies between Poston’s two statements.
The Appellate Court Decision
The appellate court began its decision noting that medical records are generally protected by Florida’s right to privacy, but that in some circumstances a party to a lawsuit may put their own medical records at issue. In such cases, the records are reviewable by the opposing party.
Here, the court said, the medical records prior to the accident are discoverable because they may be relevant to the issue of negligence in the case. The court noted that the judge may be able to review the documents in camera (by herself) to determine relevancy before turning the documents over to Wiggins.
However, the court held that the post-accident medical records were irrelevant and were not discoverable. Poston did not put her post-accident medical history at issue when making the two statements, the court held, because there was nothing inconsistent about the two statements: “There is nothing in the [Poston’s] testimony to suggest that her condition worsened as a result of the accident rather than from the mere passage of time since the accident.”
Are You Involved in a Florida Personal Injury Action?
If you are considering filing suit for a Florida personal injury action, you should make sure that you have an experienced and dedicated Ocala personal injury attorney at your side throughout the entire process. Often times the nuances in the admissibility and discoverability of evidence can make or break a plaintiff’s case; you want to make sure that you are well prepared and ready for trial, when that day comes. The Dean Law Firm represents Florida accident victims across the state, and has an impressive track record when it comes to recovering for their clients. Click here, or call 352-387-8700 to schedule a free initial consultation today.
More Blog Posts:
Fire in Miami Shores Nursing Home Forces All Residents to Evacuate, Ocala Injury Lawyers Blog, published February 4, 2014.
Elderly Woman Kills Three Backing Out of a Parking Space After Church, Ocala Injury Lawyers Blog, published February 3, 2014.