Why Won’t My Doctor Come to Court to Testify?

I was hurt in a truck wreck and my case is coming to trial.  My lawyer says that my doctor will not come to court to testify about her treatment of me.  I think she would make a good witness and I want her there.  Can’t she be subpoenaed to trial?

Not in Tennessee.  Tennessee has a special law that provides that doctors, psychologists, lawyers, and certain other people do not have to obey a subpoena to trial unless the judge specially orders them to court.  People who are exempt from subpoena often give their testimony by a deposition that is read to the jury.  Sometime, the testimony of these witnesses will be videoed and the video will be shown to the jury.

Why does this law exist?   The Legislature determined that the professional schedules of these people made it very difficult for them to go to court and testify in person.  It is difficult to predict exactly when a witness at trial, and having a doctor sit and wait for the opportunity to testify may cost as much as $1000 per hour.   Thus, this law saves litigants money as well as permitting the professionals covered under the law to avoid testimony in court.

This does not mean that a doctor cannot come to court and, indeed, some of them agree to come in certain cases.   However, this usually occurs only in cases involving substantial money, because the cost of having a doctor testify in-person is substantial.