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Florida Third DCA rules that trial court erred in compelling defendant’s disclosure of financial information in nursing home negligence case without first establishing that the information sought was relevant to the liability claim

On July 1, 2020, in Fair Havens Center, LLC v. Estate of Nicula, No. 3D20-205, the Florida Third DCA granted a defendant’s petition for a writ of certiorari in a nursing home negligence case in which the trial court had compelled the disclosure of financial information concerning the operation of the nursing home facility. The plaintiff argued that the reports sought were already matters of public record, but the Third DCA concluded that  the trial court should have conducted a hearing to establish whether the requested documents are relevant to the cause of action and are therefore discoverable. The Third DCA noted that Fla. Stat. §400.0237 limits discovery of financial worth information in nursing home negligence cases until the claimant obtains leave to amend his or her complaint to assert a claim for punitive damages, which had not been done in this case.  The plaintiff argued that the documents are being sought for a reason other than proving punitive damages, i.e., that the documents are necessary to prove the negligence claim.  The  Third DCA concluded that the trial court should have conducted a hearing to determine the relevancy of the requested documents to the issues framed by the pleadings.

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