Car Accident Plaintiff Entitled to Documents to Show Bias, Motive, or Interest of Insurance Company-Retained Examining Physician, Fourth Department Holds

In Dominicci v. Ford, a rear-end motor vehicle accident case decided July 3, 2014, the Fourth Department affirmed the denial of State Farm Automobile Insurance Company’s motion to quash plaintiff’s subpoena for documents.

State Farm retained a physician to conduct an “independent medical examination”, or “IME”, of the plaintiff on behalf of defendant. Plaintiff then served a document called a “judial subpoena duces tecum” on State Farm seeking, among other things,

production of 1099 forms or other wage statements reflecting payments made by State Farm to the examining physician for the period from 2009 through 2011, as well as bills and invoices related to the litigation received from the examining physician, his staff or business, or from the independent examination processing company.

State Farm moved to quash the subpoena, on the ground that plaintiff intended “to use the subpoenaed materials to impeach the examining physician’s general credibility.” Plaintiff opposed the motion, arguing “that she intended to use the subpoenaed documents to cross-examine the examining physician at trial with respect to his bias or interest.”

The appellate court agreed that plaintiff was entitled to the requested materials:

[A] motion to quash a subpoena duces tecum should be granted only where the materials sought are utterly irrelevant to any proper inquiry. Moreover, the burden of establishing that the requested documents and records are utterly irrelevant is on the person being subpoenaed. It is proper to allow cross-examination of a physician regarding the fact that the defendant’s insurance company retained him to examine the plaintiff in order to show bias or interest on the part of the witness. Questions concerning the bias, motive or interest of a witness are relevant and should be freely permitted and answered¬†and, thus, plaintiff is entitled to discovery materials that will assist her in preparing such questions. (Citations and internal quotation marks omitted; emphasis added.)

In addition to confirming the plaintiff’s right to documents that will facilitate the inquiry into a witness’ bias, motive, or interest, this case further underscores the myth of the “independent” nature of the examination that is ordered and paid for by the defendant. Therefore, such exams (commonly referred to as “IMEs”) are more appropriately called “DMEs” (i.e., Defense Medical Examinations).

Share This: