Preexisting Conditions Discoverable When Medical Condition Placed in Controversy (NY)

In Walters v. Sallah, the First Department recognized the significance of obtaining a plaintiff’s pre-accident medical records when a plaintiff places his or her medical condition in controversy.  

Walters sustained injuries in a car accident and claimed that he was unable to perform substantially all of his usual daily functions for at least 90 out of the first 180 days following the accident.  The defendants moved to compel Walters to provide authorizations to obtain his medical records pertaining to a pre-existing arthritic condition, as well as disability records from the Social Security Administration.  The defendants argued that these pre-existing conditions could be the cause of Walter’s inability to perform his usual daily activities.  In reversing the lower court’s decision, the First Department ruled that the defendants met their burden of showing that the requested records were relevant to a physical condition that Walters placed in controversy.  It was left, however, to the lower court’s discretion to limit the discovery to reasonable parameters, including time frame and relevant body parts.  Thus, while such discovery is clearly relevant and discoverable, defendants are not generally entitled to an unfiltered fishing expedition.

Special thanks to Lora Gleicher for her contributions to this post.  For more information, please contact Nicole Y. Brown at