Frequent Flyer IME State Farm Doctors: Admissible at Trial?

One interesting issue we encountered during our last trial was whether we could point out that the defense doctor was a frequent flyer for one particular insurance company in a case that did not involve the insurance company that was a party to our matter.

The defendant’s IME doctor was testifying by videotape. The doctor is one that can most generously be described as a frequent “independent” expert witness for State Farm. Obviously, as the plaintiff’s attorney, I wanted to make hay to the jury of the fact that the doctor makes over $300,000 a year from a limited number of lawyers and that this colors his testimony.

The defendant argued that we used the word “insurance” to tell the jury that the defendant has insurance. I don’t think it did that. The purpose of the cross on bias – which I later learned was meaningful to the jury – was to underscore our leitmotif of why this otherwise qualified doctor has it so wrong: he is in the back pocket of a small group of defendants.

Why not just throw up the number and leave State Farm out of it? Our argument was that “State Farm” is a necessary element of this categorization. Otherwise, we would have to break down every law firm that does State Farm work. If we went through this burdensome task, the “small, captive group” point would be lost.

Ultimately, the trial judge disagreed and we redacted – actually the better phrase is turned down the volume for a second – the State Farm references. The jury still got the point loud and clear and awarded $545,000.

I think this is a good sample trial cross of a defense expert that is vulnerable to the charge that he is so well-paid by the insurance companies that it influences his objectivity.