A small victory last week for the defense bar! In the case of WellStar Kennestone Hospital v. Roman, 2018 Ga. App. LEXIS 34 (Ga. App. Jan. 30, 2018), the Court of Appeals affirmed a trial court decision refusing to modify a subpoena served on non-party WellStar. Appellee Mario Roman was involved in a motor vehicle collision with Autumn McKinney. As part of his discovery efforts, Roman served a subpoena on WellStar, seeking to depose WellStar regarding the rates for services provided to McKinney if said services were provided to “uninsured patients; to insured patients; to patients under workers compensation plans; to patients under Medicare or Medicaid plans; and to litigant and non-litigant patients.” WellStar sought to modify the subpoena, arguing that such information was “not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.” The trial court disagreed with WellStar.
On appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed. Highlighting the trial court’s distinction between discoverable information and admissible information, the Court of Appeals agreed that there is no authority to support WellStar’s contention that the collateral source rule bars the discovery of medical rates and charges of third parties not involved in the subject litigation. Noting the wide latitude given to make complete discovery possible, the Court reminded WellStar that its burden was to show more than that the materials or information sought would not themselves be admissible. Deloitte Haskins & Sells v. Green, 187 Ga. App. 376, 379 (1988).
Practically speaking, this ruling is significant in the context of personal injury litigation, where inflated bills and litigation funding companies are becoming the norm rather than, heretofore, the exception. As more and more plaintiffs get caught up in the medico-legal loop and become indebted to non-party providers, defense attorneys face inherently more difficulty in reaching reasonable settlement agreements. However, if the Courts begin requiring providers to divulge non-party rate information, there’s hope that these excessive and usurious billing practices might be stopped.