Cross-Examining Defense Doctors on Financial Bias.

The best way to attack a defense medical witness’ testimony is to conduct an effective cross-examination. One of the ways we do this is by exposing the doctor’s financial interest in acting as a professional witness.

Maryland law allows discovery of how much a professional witness earns from testifying, as well as what percentage of his overall income is earned from working as a paid witness. At Miller & Zois, we don’t take the doctor’s word for it. Our practice is to issue a subpoena for the financial records that document the amounts the DME (Defense Medical Exam) doctor is paid by insurance companies and defense attorneys.

The doctors do not like this very much. Usually the response we receive is a Motion for Protective Order from the doctor’s attorney asking that the records not be produced. If the court orders that the financial records be produced, usually that is the last you see of the DME doctor. Doctors will generally refuse to testify before producing these records.

I had a hearing on one of these motions filed by an DME doctor last week in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County. The doctor lost. He was ordered to produce the 1099 and other tax forms showing how much he was paid in the last two years by insurance companies and defense attorneys. I am waiting to see if he appeals or just bails from the case. Every time this particular doctor has been ordered to produce these records, he has either appealed or withdrawn.

The doctors and the defense bar think we do this because we know that if the records are ordered to be produced the doctor will refuse to testify. Obviously that makes my job as plaintiff’s counsel easier. The truth of the matter is that we subpoena these records because it is the only way to ensure a good cross-examination. Otherwise, the witness can make up any number that he thinks won’t make him look bad, or claim not to know the answers at all because some mysterious “bookkeeper” has that information. I don’t think it’s my fault that these doctors will refuse to testify before they admit the extent to which their opinions are bought and paid for by the insurance industry and the defense bar.