By Judge Audrey Headrick, Chattanooga
The Court of Workers’ Compensation Claims recently welcomed attorneys with Open Arms for coffee and conversation about the Court’s rules, processes, etc. We were pleased with attendance and the Straight Up feedback you gave us. Among the concerns you voiced was how to handle medical records.
Let’s go Back in Time to October 2016 when Judge Allen Phillips wrote a post entitled, “Getting on Down to the Main Attraction.” You might recall that Judge Phillips discussed the admonishment from our Appeals Board in Love v. Delta Faucet. What’s Love Got to Do With It? Well, in Love, counsel submitted into evidence over 700 pages of medical records. The Appeals Board summarized numerous records that had nothing to do with any issue in the case. The record contained 700-plus pages of duplicative records, no table of contents, and made appellate review “unnecessarily cumbersome and time-consuming.” Further, the Appeals Board opted not to vacate the trial court’s decision and remand the case “for the purpose of creating a proper record.”
However, Time After Time, we continue to see counsel routinely file voluminous medical records that contain irrelevant documents, duplicates, and no table of contents. Now, I’m sure that with Every Breath You Take you’re thinking about the proper procedure for filing medical records with the Court. Maybe you’re feeling Out of Touch with the process. Since we’re all Human, I’ll summarize the most important advice because That’s What Friends Are For.
- Medical records are admissible if they contain a signature or electronic signature by a physician or if accompanied by a Medical Record Certification. Note: The signature of a nurse practitioner or a physician’s assistant, alone, doesn’t make the record admissible.
- If you file medical records with a Medical Record Certification and/or custodian affidavit, we still request that you remove records that aren’t relevant to the disputed issue. For example, we generally don’t need to see fax cover sheets, copies of insurance cards, appointment reminders, illegible records, or old records unrelated to disputed issues in the case. Always refer to the Tennessee Rules of Evidence to determine the relevance of specific medical records.
- Letters or written statements addressing medical causation signed by a physician are admissible at an expedited hearing. No affidavit is required. However, at a compensation hearing, a judge may exclude such documents by valid objections under the Tennessee Rules of Evidence even if presented in an affidavit.
- Don’t file duplicate medical records. If a party filed the records with a mediator, there’s no need to refile them. As discussed below, prepare a table of contents for the records you file with a mediator if there are more than ten pages.
- File any medical records you intend to present as evidence at a scheduled hearing no later than ten business days before the hearing. Remember, you don’t need to refile records previously filed with a mediator (unless you didn’t organize them at mediation).
- If the medical records you file consist of more than ten pages, you must prepare a chronological table of contents. The table of contents page must include the name of the medical provider, the dates of service, and page numbers.
- Especially if both sides have counsel, work together to file one set of agreed upon medical records that are numbered with a table of contents.
- If you submit a medical deposition, please note that all of the rules above apply to medical records attached as exhibits.
- If you file a motion and attach medical records as exhibits, only attach records relevant to the Court’s consideration of the motion. The rules above apply.
- Parties might receive an order to reduce voluminous records and/or prepare a table of contents if they fail to comply with the rules.
Some of you requested a template of a table of contents. We don’t have a template on our website, but Judge Phillips previously posted the sample below. However, please note that the dates of service should also be included for each provider.
Finally, after an evidentiary hearing, the Appeals Board won’t consider medical records submitted on appeal unless the trial judge admitted them into evidence.
Please consider this Another Brick in the Wall that responds to questions regarding the filing of medical records with the Court. Truly, I hope you’re not thinking that Another One Bites the Dust!
Yes, I confess: I’m an ’80s girl. I hope you enjoyed reliving some of the hits from the ’80s as I explored the process for filing medical records!