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Florida Fifth DCA rules that defense counsel’s law firm in personal injury case was required to disclose financial relationship with CME doctor over the last three years; certifies question to Florida Supreme Court whether Worley decision precluded such di

On February 22, 2019, in Younkin v. Blackwelder, No. 5D18-3548, the Florida Fifth DCA denied a certiorari petition by a defendant in a personal injury case.  The defendant sought to overturn a trial court discovery order requiring him to disclose  the amount of money his attorney’s law firm had paid to a CME doctor over the last three years and the number of times the doctor had been retained by the law firm over that period. The defendant argued that under Worley v. Central Florida Young Men’s Christian Ass’n, 228 So. 3d 18 (Fla. 2017), the disclosure of a financial relationship between a party’s law firm and its expert witnesses is no longer discoverable.  The Fifth DCA noted that the controlling case in the Fifth DCA is Vazquez v. Martinez, 175 So. 3d 372, 373−74 (Fla. 5th DCA 2015), in which the Fifth DCA acknowledged that the discovery of this type of financial information is permissible “to assist counsel in impeaching examining physicians and other experts by demonstrating that the expert has economic ties to the insurance company or defense law firm.”  The Fifth DCA further opined that Vazquez was not implicitly overruled by the Florida Supreme Court’s decision in Worley, because Worley dealt specifically with “whether the attorney-client privilege protects a plaintiff from disclosing that an attorney referred him or her to a doctor for treatment, or a law firm from producing documents related to a possible referral relationship between the firm and its client’s treating physicians.”  228 So. 3d at 22.  In Worley, the Florida Supreme Court concluded that the attorney-client privilege did protect such information from disclosure because the plaintiff’s law firm was not a party to the litigation and the physician involved was a treating physician and not a retained expert.  The Florida Supreme Court specifically concluded in Worley that “the relationship between a law firm and a plaintiff's treating physician is not analogous to the relationship between a party and its retained expert.” 228 So. 3d at 23.  Although the Fifth DCA determined its was bound by existing precedent to rule in the plaintiff’s favor, it certified the question to the Florida Supreme Court whether Worley should also apply to protect a defense law firm’s financial relationship with experts from disclosure. 

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