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Legal How-To: Challenging a Subpoena in a Personal Injury Case

By Ephrat Livni, Esq. | Last updated on

A subpoena is a demand that a person or thing to appear or be shown in a court case. When you receive a subpoena, it is essentially a court order. If you receive a subpoena to produce something, be it a DNA sample, blood test information, computer files, photos, or medical records you are, likewise, being ordered to produce that thing.

In a personal injury case each party will make a Request for Production (RFP) using the applicable rules of civil procedure. The details of the rules will vary from state to state. But, generally speaking, court procedures provide means for parties to both seek information and challenge requests for information. You can challenge a subpoena by filing a motion to quash the subpoena.

Challenging a Subpoena

The precise procedure will depend on where the lawsuit is happening. The grounds, or basis, for your challenge to the subpoena will also vary -- you may challenge a request for evidence that is insufficiently specific or intrudes on privacy rights.

For example, when TV sportscaster Erin Andrews sued Marriott Hotels after a stalker secretly filmed her through a peephole, the hotel chain sought a slew of records that Andrews claimed were unrelated to her case, including medical records and payroll records, contracts, performance reviews, any disciplinary reports, and other employment information. Andrews moved to quash these subpoenas, arguing that they intruded on her privacy and were oppressive in their extent.

A motion to quash a subpoena is appropriate whenever a party to a lawsuit seeks information that is irrelevant. However, plaintiffs and defendants often disagree on what is relevant, and discovery rules do provide for, well ... discovery. What that means is that a court may be convinced of the need for some information if the requesting party can show a need and sometimes things that do not seem strictly related to a case may survive a motion to quash.

Consult With Counsel

If you have received a subpoena in a personal injury suit and wish to challenge it, speak to your lawyer about a motion to quash. If you are not represented and have been subpoenaed, speak to an attorney before contacting the requested parties.

Whatever your position, it is always better to be informed. Many attorneys will consult about a case at no cost. Talking to someone can help you assess your situation before you commit to representation.

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