Search for the Truth: State Farm & Dr. Zeide

Posted on September 13th, 2016
By Pete Burns

The mission of our civil justice system is to search for the truth.

Litigants on both sides of the bar are entitled to discover information that will assist in that search. All of us, whether lawyers or not, have dealt with bias and know that association can produce “motivated reasoning.” That is why it is important to determine whether a witness who will testify for the other side is driven to support that side and if so, the extent of that motivation.

That is especially true for expert witnesses who are frequently paid very high hourly rates for bringing their credentials and verbal skills to the aid of a litigant.

The Honorable George W. Maxwell, III of Brevard County Florida was faced with a situation in which State Farm had hired two doctors to perform “Compulsory Medical Exams” on the plaintiff, Amanda Park. State Farm claimed that it would cost $494,100 to determine the number of times the experts had testified for State Farm over the last three years, and the amount State Farm had paid them over that period. Therefore, State Farm did not produce the information in spite of Judge Maxell’s order to do so.

In addition to precluding the experts from testifying, Judge Maxwell exposed the scheme State Farm had concocted in an attempt to prevent a jury – or anyone else – from discovering how much it had paid these experts over the last three years. The opinion is notable for its clarity and courage.

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