Bill seeks secrecy for doctor fees in lawsuits

The state’s doctors’ lobby wants to make expert witness fees in court cases secret and the lawyers’ lobby is against that idea, reports The Tennessean.

The bill (HB1446)+ is sponsored by Rep. Mark Pody, R-Lebanon, and Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mount Juliet, and would make confidential the fees paid to all expert witnesses.

Pody said he believed government should be completely transparent, but citizens have a different expectation of privacy.

“Physicians are having to spend time, energy and resources to preserve a standard degree of privacy that other citizens and professionals enjoy,” said Dave Chaney, a spokesman for the Tennessee Medical Association, which helped draft the bill.

Chaney said it is not relevant in a trial how much an expert makes. One doctor who has been negatively affected declined via the TMA to be interviewed, saying to do so would draw more negative attention.

Allan Ramsaur, executive director of the Tennessee Bar Association, said lawyers on both sides of a case can ask for an expert or doctor’s compensation to create question about that person’s opinion. A larger payment could create concern of someone’s bias, he said.

Ramsaur said the TBA opposes the bill because rules that deal with court procedure should be handled by an existing rulemaking commission, not the legislature. The Advisory Commission on the Rules of Practice and Procedure was created by statute and its members are appointed by the Tennessee Supreme Court.