Whenever an individual files a personal injury lawsuit against another person or entity, the defendant is entitled to access to the plaintiff’s medical records through a process known as discovery. Conversely, the plaintiff is also entitled to pertinent information such as the defendant’s insurance policy.
Indeed, many of the key pieces of information that each side gathers about the other during litigation are revealed during the pretrial period of discovery. For this reason, there are rarely if ever any “Perry Mason”-like moments of revelatory surprise if and when a case goes to trial.
But one plaintiff, Paul Bailey, of Philadelphia, would have preferred to maintain some mystery in his personal injury lawsuit that was filed in July 2014 in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas. Bailey, who claimed to have fallen on a city sidewalk on November 22, 2012, and to have suffered numerous injuries on an allegedly “broken, defective or unlevel sidewalk,” refused to comply with the defendants’ request for his medical and psychiatric records.
Bailey’s lawsuit alleged that the defendants — Subway, Comcast, Verizon and the City of Philadelphia — were negligent for allegedly knowing about the condition of the sidewalk in question and taking no steps to repair it. During discovery, Comcast filed a slew of subpoenas to obtain information about Bailey’s physical and mental health history and condition. But Bailey’s response was that the request was “too numerous and burdensome” and that he did not have to provide the records because the request was in violation of doctor-patient confidentiality.
However, the presiding judge in this case ruled on March 31 that the defense had a valid right to submit the subpoenas and records requests and ordered Bailey to comply. The plaintiff subsequently filed a motion for reconsideration of the judge’s ruling.
While there are some sources of information that are shielded from discovery, such as discussions between an attorney and client that are protected by attorney-client privilege, medical records that are relevant to a personal injury case are not among them. An experienced personal injury attorney will be able to carefully guide his or her client through the important discovery process.