When a witness testifies in a Floria personal injury case, they swear “to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” However, if a witness contradicts themselves while on the stand, this can often be grounds for opposing counsel to discredit them and make them seem less believable in the eyes of the jury. A recent case illustrates the importance of maintaining consistency throughout a trial, as well as the boundaries of the attorney-client privilege.
In a recent Florida personal injury case, a plaintiff sued after claiming she had permanent back damage from when the defendant’s vehicle struck her from behind. During the trial, defense counsel argued that while the plaintiff was on the stand she contradicted herself, and used this contradiction to get in evidence that would otherwise have been inadmissible. Specifically, the plaintiff testified that she was referred to a treating chiropractor by the emergency room doctor. However, in reality, it was the plaintiff’s former attorney who referred her to the chiropractor. The defendant used the contradiction to admit evidence that the plaintiff’s former attorney referred her to the chiropractor.
In Florida, the attorney-client privilege protects a party from being required to disclose that her attorney referred her to a physician for treatment. In this case, the plaintiff claimed that defense counsel was not allowed to ask about the referral in front of the jury because it violated attorney-client privilege. However, the court concluded that the defendant’s attorney did not directly ask the plaintiff whether she received the referral from her attorney, but merely drew the inference. While asking the plaintiff about the referral would have been a clear violation of attorney-client privilege, the attorney was allowed to probe into the plaintiff’s contradiction in front of the jury.