Florida law recognizes its citizens’ right to privacy. However, that is not all-encompassing, especially when a person becomes a party in a civil lawsuit.
Defense lawyers are notorious for seeking all manner of private plaintiff information, from medical records to bank statements to Facebook posts. Some of these requests are legitimate and reasonable. For example, if a person is claiming injury in a car accident, it’s reasonable for the opposing side to review medical records created in the immediate aftermath of that crash.
But sometimes, defense requests for private information from plaintiff goes beyond the scope of what is reasonable or even relevant. They are trolling for any and all information that might not only bolster their case and serve their interests, but that which might discredit the plaintiff.
While not all of these requests will be honored by the court, many are. Our Cape Coral personal injury attorneys strive not only to have success in our cases, but to protect our clients’ privacy as well. If a request for private information can’t be blocked entirely, we will argue aggressively to limit its scope.
This was the sort of issue at hand in the recent case of Muller v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., before the Florida Second District Court of Appeals.
Plaintiff sought appellate review of a trial court’s grant of a defense request for production of plaintiff’s military records in connection with a negligence action pending against a large chain store and an employee.
Court documents do not detail the underlying claim in depth, except to note it stems from a 2012 incident in which plaintiff was struck by a truck belonging to the store and driven by the employee while at a distribution center. The complaint sought damages for permanent injury, pain and suffering, aggravation of pre-existing conditions or physical defects, disability, disfigurement, mental anguish, loss of life enjoyment, medical expenses, lost wages and loss of earning capacity.
In the course of the discovery process, it was revealed plaintiff had served in the U.S. Army for more than a decade before he was honorably discharged in 1993. During his service, he was stationed in Korea, Berlin and Iraq. In that time, he had suffered three injuries. However, he was not seeking damages in this negligence case for aggravation of military injuries.
Still, defendant sought his entire military personnel file and military medical records. Plaintiff argued this was an invasion of privacy and the information was irrelevant. Defense argued it was necessary to examine plaintiff’s claim for damages.
Trial court granted the request – without an in camera review of those records – and plaintiff appealed.
Appellate court noted that while defense may be correct in asserting the military records could likely contain evidence that will assist the firm in defending against plaintiff’s claims, it’s also true the records likely contain information that isn’t relative to the claims and would be “highly intrusive to his private interests” if disclosed.
Therefore, the court ruled, these documents have to be separated from the relevant documents, and the only way to do that is with an in camera inspection by the judge. The case was remanded with instructions to the judge to do just that.
If you have been a victim of a traffic accident, call Chalik & Chalik at (954) 476-1000 or 1 (800) 873-9040.
Muller v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., May 22, 2015, Florida Second District Court of Appeal
More Blog Entries:
Glazer v. State – Defective Road Design Lawsuit, May 25, 2015, Cape Coral Injury Attorney Blog