Opening The Door To Referral Relationship Evidence Waives Worley Privilege

Car Accidents

In the case of Sompun Ruchimora v. Bernice Grullon, Case Number 3D19-753 (Fla. 3rd DCA July 15, 2020), Florida’s Third DCA held that introducing evidence of a claimant’s referral relationship with a medical provider opens the door to inferences and arguments by defense counsel.

Facts of the Case

Ruchimora was injured in a rear end car accident. The jury found that Ruchimora’s injury was caused by the accident but was not permanent. An award of $15,000 was made for past medical expenses and reduced by setoffs to a net judgment of $5,000. She has requested over $300,000 in damages.

The opinion states that Ruchimora’s attorney referred to a “credibility determination” in opening and closing, specifically asked Ruchimora who referred her to a chiropractor, and introduced a letter of protection (See Bellezza v. Menendez) to the chiropractor.

The Third DCA held that this opened the door to a challenge by Grullon’s attorney. Specifically, defense counsel challenged the testimony that it was the emergency room that referred Ms. Ruchimora to a chiropractor.

These actions clearly placed Ms. Ruchimora’s credibility at issue and the jury was permitted to draw inferences from the evidence that she presented. The court also commented on a pre-trial motion in limine filed by the plaintiff which requested the exclusion of argument that the plaintiff’s treating physicians “prostitutes himself for the benefit of lawyers, that the doctor and/or lawyer have orchestrated the entire case or created a scheme…”

Application of Worley

After Worley v. Central Florida Young Men’s Christian Association, Inc., 228 So. 3d 18 (Fla. 2017), it was supposed to be clear that the attorney-client privilege protects a party from being required to disclose that an attorney referred you to a physician for treatment.

However, this case appears to have opened the door when testimony that an emergency room doctor made the referral was introduced by the plaintiff. This allowed the defense attorney to infer that the plaintiff’s attorney (or one of the plaintiff’s attorneys) made the referral to contradict the deposition testimony regarding the referral.

Talk To A Car Accident Lawyer About Your Case

Despite the fight that ensued in this case at trial over who referred who to the doctor and the role of treating physicians, this case appears to be one where the jury simply did not believe that a significant or permanent injury occurred to the plaintiff. This is something than can happen in just about any case with soft tissue injuries that are treated by a chiropractor.

While many soft tissue injuries that are treated by chiropractors can have a significant impact on a person’s life, convincing a jury of that can be a challenge. This is where the very personal decision of whether to settle or go to trial comes into play. I do not second guess the decisions that were made in this case, however, please know that you only get one chance to make these decisions with your case.

This is why you should talk to a car accident lawyer about your case. There are many answers that cannot be had at the beginning of the case but will become clearer with time. To make the best possible decisions on your case, you should maintain an ongoing dialogue with your attorney about your case.

To find out if we can help you with your case, call us for a free consultation with Lakeland car accident attorney with Russo Law.

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July 20, 2020