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Right to Privacy in Florida Injury Case – Muller v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

documentsDefendants in personal injury cases are notorious for trying to get as much information as possible from the plaintiffs. Florida law provides its citizens with the right of privacy, but this right is not absolute. While some  requests for information are legitimate, others go too far. As a victim in a personal injury case, we know the last things you want to think about are procedural rules. However, these rules can significantly affect your case.

Under Florida rules of civil procedure, a defendant can seek discovery of any non-privileged matter that is relevant to the case. A discovery request for inadmissible evidence will likely be allowed if it is reasonably calculated to lead to admissible evidence.

In Muller v. Walmart Stores, Inc., the Florida Second District Court of Appeal assessed a grant of disclosure of a plaintiff’s military records to a defendant in a truck accident case.

The case arose from an automobile crash in which the plaintiff was hit by a vehicle owned by Wal-Mart and driven by a company employee. The plaintiff sought to recover damages, including permanent injury, pain and suffering, disfigurement, aggravation of pre-existing conditions, loss of income and earning capacity, medical bills, and more.

During discovery, it was revealed that the plaintiff had served in the U.S. army for a number of years and had incurred three different injuries in that time.  The plaintiff stated that he was not seeking money for the aggravation of those prior injuries.

Still, the defendant sought the plaintiff’s entire military personnel file, military medical records, and “undeleted” DD Form 214, which included information about the plaintiff’s departure from the military. The form itself classifies this as sensitive information. The plaintiff argued these records were irrelevant to the case at hand.

The trial court granted the defendant’s request, but the appellate court reversed.

The appellate court reasoned that, while there may be relevant information in the plaintiff’s military records, the records also contain a lot of information that would not be pertinent to the present case. Thus, permitting the defendant access to the records would be “highly intrusive to [the plaintiff’s] private interests.” Essentially, the court determined that handing over the plaintiff’s entire military records would be an unreasonable breach of the plaintiff’s privacy.

To address this, the court maintained that relevant documents had to be separated from irrelevant documents. Thus, the case was remanded with instructions to perform an in-camera inspection prior to determining the scope of the plaintiff’s military records that could be released to the defendant.

If you have been injured through someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation for your harm. Personal injury cases can be extremely complex to navigate, which is why it is important to seek the help of a qualified Miami injury attorney. At the Law Offices of Robert Dixon, we understand the nuanced procedural rules that often come into play in Florida negligence cases. We will work diligently to advance your rights. We proudly serve clients throughout South Florida. To learn more, do not hesitate to contact us online or call us today at 1-877-499-HURT (4878) for a free, confidential consultation.

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