Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Judge Gelb of Luzerne County Addresses Parameters of Expert Discovery

In her recent Opinion in the case of Mangan v. Erie Insurance Exchange, No. 2011-Civil-06261 (C.P. Luz. Co. June 5, 2012 Gelb, J.), Judge Lesa Gelb of the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas reviewed discovery issues in the context of a first party benefits litigation pursued by the Plaintiff against Erie Insurance Exchange.

Judge Lesa Gelb
Luzerne County
During the course of that litigation, the Plaintiff served Interrogatories addressed to Erie Insurance concerning the professional activities of a Dr. Roger Caine and a Dr. Mark Cavallo, peer review chiropractors retained by Erie Insurance. In these Expert Interrogatories, the Plaintiff sought information regarding the litigation-related activities of these medical providers over a three (3) year period.

Erie Insurance objected on the grounds that the Interrogatories exceeded the scope permitted by Cooper v. Schoffstall, 905 A.2d 482 (Pa. 2006). More specifically, Erie Insurance asserted that the Plaintiff had not established a requisite threshold showing to establish “cause” with respect to the expert discovery desired, i.e., a showing of “reasonable grounds” to believe that the expert witness may have entered the “professional witness” category.

After a thorough analysis, including a review of the specific expert Interrogatories request, Judge Gelb concluded that the Plaintiffs “are entitled to inquire into the issues of potential favoritism and whether Drs. Caine and Cavallo entered the professional witness category.”

Judge Gelb went on to direct Erie to answer four (4) of the eight (8) Interrogatories at issue in order to determine whether those doctors “fall into the professional witness category as defined by the Cooper case.” Judge Gelb further ruled that, should the Defendant’s witnesses fall into the professional witness category as defined in the Cooper case based upon the Interrogatories that are required to be answered, the Plaintiff could, thereafter, send supplemental expert discovery in conformity with the Cooper Opinion.

Anyone desiring a copy of this Opinion may contact me at dancummins@comcast.net.

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