Federal Court in Tennessee Refuses to Order Minor Child with Seizures to Travel to Florida for IME – Vandergriff v. Red Robin International, Inc.

After a lawsuit is filed, the parties usually engage in a period of discovery. Sometimes, this involves the defendant asking that an injured person undergo a medical examination by a doctor retained by – and paid by – the defense. Often, this doctor will have an opinion that conflicts with that of the plaintiff’s treating physician (or the plaintiff’s retained expert).

If the parties cannot agree on the details of when, where, and under which conditions the examination will take place, the trial court has broad discretion to enter an order resolving the issue.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs in the case of Vandergriff v. Red Robin International, Inc. were a minor child and her parents. They filed a negligence suit against the defendant restaurant, seeking to recover compensation for injuries allegedly suffered by the child in a fall on the premises of the restaurant. According to the plaintiffs, the slip and fall on the defendant’s property left the child with a seizure disorder.

During discovery, the defendant requested that the minor child have an independent medical evaluation (IME) with a doctor who specialized in seizure disorders. The plaintiffs did not object to the IME but were uncomfortable with the idea of the child traveling to the doctor’s office in Miami, Florida (even though the defendant was willing to pay their travel expenses) because the minor plaintiff’s treating physician would not give her medical clearance to get on a plane due to her seizures. According to the defendant, the IME would cost $800 if it were performed in Miami, but it would cost several thousand dollars more if the doctor had to come to Chattanooga to perform the exam.

The Issue to be Resolved

The defendant filed a motion pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 35, seeking a court order requiring the minor child to submit to the IME in Miami. The parents and minor child filed a response opposing the location of the examination and attached the affidavit of the child’s physician.

The Federal District Court’s Decision

Following a hearing, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee at Chattanooga denied the defendant’s motion. The court ruled that the IME was to take place in Chattanooga, rather than Miami. The court noted that, although the IME physician had opined that there was nothing in the child’s medical records to indicate that it would be unsafe for her to travel to Miami, the child’s treating physician – who, unlike the IME doctor, had actually examined the child and spoken with her family – refused to give her medical clearance to fly. Furthermore, the child’s mother was pregnant and would be eight months along at the time that the defendant wanted the IME to take place in Miami.

The court noted that it had considered the burden on the IME doctor if he were required to travel to Chattanooga, but it found that he would be effectively compensated for his inconvenience by his $7,500 per day fee. With regard to the defendant’s request that the increased costs associated with the IME taking place in Chattanooga rather than Miami be deducted from any recovery eventually obtained by the plaintiffs in their litigation, the court reserved its ruling until a later date.

For Help with Your East Tennessee Injury Case

As this case illustrates, there can be a lot of procedural finagling in a personal injury lawsuit. If you or a loved one has been hurt in a slip and fall or other accident, you should contact an experienced Knoxville premises liability attorney to represent you as you seek compensation from the responsible party. To schedule an appointment with the Hartsoe Law Firm, call 865-524-5657 and ask for a free, confidential case evaluation today.

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