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Collett v. GEICO Casualty Co.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

August 3, 2017

MARLENE COLLETT
v.
GEICO CASUALTY CO., ET AL.

         SECTION: “A” (1)

          JAY C. ZAINEY JUDGE.

          ORDER AND REASONS

          Janis Van Meerveld United States Magistrate Judge.

         Before the Court are the Motion to Compel Discovery filed by defendant GEICO Casualty Company (“GEICO”)[1] (Rec. Doc. 23) and the Motion to Limit the Deposition of Plaintiff's Treating Physician and Medical Expert filed by plaintiff Marlene Collett (Rec. Doc. 21). These cross motions both address the question of whether plaintiff's treating physician and medical expert, Dr. David Petersen, will be required to testify regarding accusations of fraud that may have been made against him. For the following reasons, both motions are DENIED.

         Background

         This lawsuit arises out of a motor vehicle accident that occurred on February 10, 2016. Ms. Collett alleges that she suffered back, neck, arm, hand, and knee injuries when she was rear-ended by a vehicle operated by defendant Jonathan Morgan and owned by defendant Paul Morgan. GEICO provided liability insurance on the vehicle. Ms. Collett underwent multiple epidural steroid injections in her neck and eventually a posterior cervical facet fusion.

         Dr. Petersen treated Ms. Collett and performed the cervical fusion surgery. He was deposed by telephone on June 15, 2017. He was asked about his involvement with Orthopedic Development Corporation, and he testified that he was one of the company's founders but that he has had no involvement with the company for seven years. He testified that the company's CEO “got himself into a lot of hot water, and I basically walked away.” Dr. Petersen also testified that the company's name was changed to minSURG and then to minSURG international. In its memorandum in support, counsel for GEICO points out that Dr. Petersen's CV lists “Medical Director/CEO/Chairman/Founder minSURG International Corporation.” The CV does not specify whether this is a former or current position.

         During the June 15, 2017, deposition, counsel for GEICO asked Dr. Petersen whether anyone had accused him of fraud in connection with Orthopedic Development Corporation or minSURG. Counsel for the plaintiff stated that he believed the question was harassing to Dr. Petersen. Dr. Petersen then declined to answer the question. Counsel for GEICO reserved GEICO's rights regarding Dr. Petersen's refusal. Counsel for the plaintiff did not make a motion during the deposition to limit the deposition due to harassment. Counsel for GEICO did not seek the Court's assistance in obtaining Dr. Petersen's testimony at the time of the deposition. It appears from the transcript that the deposition lasted little over an hour.

         Following the deposition, GEICO moved to compel Dr. Petersen to answer this question about accusations of fraud and all follow up questions at plaintiff's cost, plus an award of attorney's fees and costs associated with the filing of the motion. The same day, Ms. Collett filed a motion to limit the deposition of Dr. Petersen on the grounds that GEICO's line of questioning is harassing to Dr. Petersen, is irrelevant to his treatment of Ms. Collett, and is not admissible at trial.

         Law and Analysis

         1. Discovery Standards

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide that “parties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case.” Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 26(b)(1). In determining proportionality, the parties (and the Court if called to weigh in) should consider:

the importance of the issues at stake in the action, the amount in controversy, the parties' relative access to relevant information, the parties' resources, the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues, and whether the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit.

Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 26(b)(1). “Information within this scope of discovery need not be admissible in evidence to be ...


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