Fifth District Court of Appeal of Florida finds Expert Witness Compensation Admissible Evidence.

In Vazquez v. Martinez, 2015 Fla. App. LEXIS 13895, Ms. Martinez was stopped at a red light when her car was rear-ended by Ms. Vazquez. Ms. Martinez claimed injuries from the accident and sued Ms. Vazquez. During the trial, the trial court permitted Ms. Martinez to present evidence that, over the past three years, payments totaling almost $700,000, were made “by the defense or its agents” to Ms. Vazquez’s expert witnesses. Ms. Vazquez argued that this evidence was irrelevant because she did not have any direct financial relationship with any of the experts, and instructing the jury on payments made by “representatives of the defendant” or “defendant or its agents” improperly implied the existence of insurance. The trial court allowed the evidence to be presented and Ms. Vazquez appealed.

The Court found that whether a party has a direct relationship with any of the experts does not determine whether discovery of the doctor/law firm relationship or doctor/insurer relationship is allowed. The Court emphasized that the purpose of the rule is to expose any potential bias between a party and an expert. Evidence of bias may be found in the financial ties between all of the litigant’s agents, including the litigant’s law firm or insurer and the expert. Moreover, the Court stated that the trial judge adeptly permitted evidence of possible bias without disclosing the existence of insurance. Therefore, the Court concluded that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in permitting Ms. Martinez to present the challenged evidence.