Attorney-client privilege could shield law firms from being forced to reveal whether they steer clients to medical providers that unreasonably (or perhaps fraudulently) inflate medical bills for injury cases

An opinion issued by the Supreme Court of Florida in April touched on a mixture of long-time and more recently trending complaints about personal injury litigation in Florida and raised serious questions on what could be argued has become an industry of sorts. 

In Worley v. Central Florida Young Men's Christian Ass'n, Inc. 42 Fla. L. Weekly S443b (Fla., 2017), the Court examined practices by a large and very well-known Florida law firm (you've seen the billboards and likely heard the radio or television ads, as well) and the firms "network" of physicians and health care providers and how the firm advises its clients.  

In Worley, the allegations of the insurance company were essentially that the firm was steering clients (including perhaps those that did not ask for help seeking medical attention) to several health care providers that had a "cozy agreement" with the firm.  The insurance company argued that cozy relationship included the fact that health care providers provided care almost entirely on the basis of "letters of protection" (which means the facility agrees it will provide services with the hope of getting paid from the personal injury lawsuit and not the patient at the time of service) and that the bills generated for those services were extremely high (or, in some cases, potentially fraudulently high) compared to other providers in the area.  Implied in the claims by the insurer is the concept that these providers could be rendering these bills as part of a scheme to help the law firm increase damages for purposes of settlement or trial.  

The Supreme Court did not allow the insurer to do further discovery into the nature and extent of the relationship between it and the health care providers through the firm's client and further refused to allow inquiry into whether the firm "steered" the client to these providers.  This ruling may help keep the shroud in place which covers the potentially seedier side of financial relationships between some law firms and some medical providers in personal injury cases.  Some may argue that this ruling could embolden law firms to push the limits of ethical or legal behavior in relationships with care providers given the financial incentive to bend or break the rules and the protections from discovery that this ruling could yield.