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Worley v. Cent. Fla. YMCA

Supreme Court of Florida

April 13, 2017, Decided

No. SC15-1086

Case Summary

Overview

HOLDINGS: [1]-The appellate court erred by holding that the attorney-client privilege in § 90.502, Fla. Stat. (2015), did not protect the injury victim from disclosing that an attorney referred her to a doctor for treatment, or the law firm from producing documents related to a possible referral relationship between the firm and its client's treating physicians because the relationship between the law firm and the victim’s treating physician was not analogous to the relationship between a party and its retained expert. The question of whether the victim’s attorney referred her to a doctor for treatment was protected by the attorney-client privilege, the supplemental request to produce required the production of privileged materials, and 200 hours and over $90,000 in costs to discover the collateral issue of bias in a case where the damages sought total $66,000 was unduly burdensome.

Outcome

Upon certification, the decision of the Fifth District was quashed and the decision of the Second District Court of Appeal was approved.

LexisNexis® Headnotes

 

 

Evidence > ... > Credibility of Witnesses > Impeachment > Bias, Motive & Prejudice

HN1  Bias, Motive & Prejudice

The evidence code allows a party to attack a witness's credibility based on bias. § 90.608(2), Fla. Stat. (2015). A treating physician, like any other witness, is subject to impeachment based on bias. However, bias on the part of the treating physician can be established by providing evidence of a letter of protection (LOP), which may demonstrate that the physician has an interest in the outcome of the litigation.

 

Evidence > ... > Credibility of Witnesses > Impeachment > Bias, Motive & Prejudice

HN2  Bias, Motive & Prejudice

Bias may be established by providing evidence that the physician's practice was based entirely on patients treated pursuant to letters of protection.

 

Healthcare Law > Payment Systems

HN3  Payment Systems

A letter of protection is a document sent by an attorney on a client's behalf to a health-care provider when the client needs medical treatment, but does not have insurance. Generally, the letter states that the client is involved in a court case and seeks an agreement from the medical provider to treat the client in exchange for deferred payment of the provider's bill from the proceeds of a settlement or award; and typically, if the client does not obtain a favorable recovery, the client is still liable to pay the provider's bills.

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228 So. 3d 18 ; 2017 Fla. LEXIS 812 ; 42 Fla. L. Weekly S 443; 2017 WL 1366126

HEATHER WORLEY, Petitioner, vs. CENTRAL FLORIDA YOUNG MEN'S CHRISTIAN ASS'N, INC., Respondent.

Subsequent History: Rehearing denied by Worley v. Cent. Fla. Young Men's Christian, 2017 Fla. LEXIS 2004 (Fla., Oct. 12, 2017)

Prior History:  [1] Application for Review of the Decision of the District Court of Appeal - Certified Direct Conflict of Decisions. Fifth District - Case No. 5D14-3895. (Orange County).

Worley v. Cent. Fla. Young Men's Christian, 163 So. 3d 1240, 2015 Fla. App. LEXIS 7282 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 5th Dist., May 15, 2015)