Yesterday I received an order from the Court of Appeals of Maryland scheduling oral argument in two cases I am handling. Really, it is one argument, but relates to two cases that have been consolidated on appeal.
The first case is a case my colleague Rod Gaston had for trial in the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County. The defendants named a neurosurgeon as an expert witness. Rod obtained an order compelling him to produce certain financial records in an effort to find out how much he is paid for testifying in general, and for the defense attorneys, defense law firms and insurance companies involved in the case specifically. The doctor has appealed that order.
The second case is a truck accident case I am handling in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County. That case has been stayed in the trial court pending the outcome of the appeal. There, the trial court entered a similar order, only with a strong confidentiality provision protecting the privacy of the records to be produced. The doctor has appealed that order as well.
It’s the same doctor in both cases. The evidence is clear that he is a “professional witness.” We also have him as a retained defense medical expert in a few other cases we have in the office. He has been ordered to produce financial information in other cases as well, and I understand more appeals will be forthcoming. It appears to be the doctor’s position that all the judges in various counties across Maryland who have ordered him to produce this material are wrong and have abused their judicial discretion.
The issue before the Court of Appeals is whether the trial courts’ orders were an abuse of discretion under the Maryland Rules and the relevant case law, including Wrobleski v. DeLara.
These cases may have broad implications for how expert witness bias discovery is conducted in Maryland auto and truck accident cases. Miller & Zois believe that juries are entitled to know if the professional witnesses put before them have a financial interest in testifying, or in testifying for any particular lawyers, firms, or insurance companies. And what the extent of that financial interest is.
The Court’s opinion in these cases is likely to significantly affect plaintiffs’ lawyers’ ability to find evidence of bias so that juries have the facts they need to determine whether they should believe the witnesses put before them.
So if you are interested, circle 1/12 on your calendar. The argument will be broadcasted live on the web from the Maryland Judiciary website.