Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Independant Medical Exam

In many personal injury cases and divorce cases, an independent medical exam is requested.  The decision whether to grant an independent medical examination under Rule 35 is reviewed under the abuse of discretion standard. See Baker Donelson Bearman Caldwell & Berkowitz, P.C. v. Seay, 42 So. 3d 474, 495 (Miss. 2010).  For “[t]rial courts are afforded broad discretion in discovery matters, and this Court will not overturn a trial court’s decision unless there is an abuse of discretion.” Ashmore v. Miss. Auth. on Educ. TV, 148 So. 3d 977, 981 (Miss. 2014). 

 MRCP 35(a) will allow for a person to be examined “When the mental or physical condition (including the blood group) of a party or of a person in the custody or under the legal control of a party is in controversy, the court in which the action is pending may order the party to submit to a physical or mental examination by a suitably licensed or certified examiner . . . .” Yet the grant of an examination is not automatic:  “The order may be made only on motion for good cause shown and upon notice to the person to be examined and to all parties and shall specify the time, place, manner, conditions, and scope of the examination and the person or persons by whom it is to be made.” MRCP 35 (emphasis added).  

One recent case shows that good cause is not met when the party seeking the examination already has all the relevant information in its possession.  Seay, 42 So.3d at 495.  The defendant law firm sought an IME when the plaintiff, a former client, asked for damages for mental and physical injuries. Id. at 481-82.  Yet the plaintiff had been deposed by the defendant, and also had obtained all of  his medical records through discovery. Id. at 482.  As a result, the plaintiff argued that the law firm had not shown good cause, in part because there was no evidence the deposition and discovery was not enough. Id. at 495. On appeal, the Mississippi Supreme Court upheld the trial court’s decision not to allow a medical examination.  Id. The ruling was simple—“that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in denying [the] Motion to Compel Physical and Mental Examination.” Id.  Given the facts of that case, it is clearly within the discretion of a trial court to deny a medical examination if the plaintiff has been deposed and their medical records made available for review.

My take on this is that as long as all the medical records and such are provided, something more than we want to poke around on the other party is required. 

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