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Pain Care First of Orlando, LLC v. Edwards

Florida Court of Appeal, Fifth District

February 24, 2012

PAIN CARE FIRST OF ORLANDO, LLC, etc., Appellant,
v.
Donald C. EDWARDS, M.D. HRGS, Inc., etc., et al., Appellees.

Rehearing and Rehearing En Banc Denied April 9, 2012.

Page 352

Christopher V. Carlyle and Shannon McLin Carlyle, of The Carlyle Appellate Law Firm, The Villages, for Appellant.

A. Anthony Giovanoli of A. Anthony Giovanoli, P.A., Winter Park, and John W. Zielinski of NeJame, LaFay, Jancha, Barker & Joshi, P.A., for Appellee Donald C. Edwards, M.D.

No Appearance for other Appellees.

PERKINS, T.R., Associate Judge.

This appeal follows a non-jury trial awarding damages and granting replevin of medical records to Appellee, Dr. Donald C. Edwards, M.D., and against Appellant, Pain Care First of Orlando, LLC. (" Pain Care" ). Although we affirm the trial court's determination that Dr. Edwards owned the medical records that make up the substance of this case, we reverse the award of damages.

From 2004 to December 2007, Dr. Edwards worked as the sole physician for Pain Care. In October 2004, the parties entered into their written " Independent Professional Physician's Agreement," under

Page 353

which Dr. Edwards accepted appointment as the clinic's Medical Director and became the owner of the medical records.[1] In 2006, this written contract was terminated by mutual agreement but Dr. Edwards continued to work as the clinic's sole physician. In addition, Dr. Edwards continued to be listed as the clinic's medical director on the clinic's letterhead and continued to sign documents on behalf of the clinic.

In December 2007, Dr. Edwards accepted a position at a rival pain clinic and stopped working at Pain Care. At that time, he requested that Pain Care provide him with the medical records for all patients that he had seen while at Pain Care. Pain Care promptly declined but did offer to provide him with copies of his notes.

Dr. Edwards then sued Pain Care in replevin to recover approximately 800 patient medical records, and for damages related to the clinic's wrongful detention of those records. In his second amended complaint, he alleged that the records were of " nominal value" on the open market but were nevertheless " irreplaceable" to him. While this case was still pending, Pain Care sold the clinic, including all of the medical records, for $1,315,644.15.

At trial, Dr. Edwards testified that he owned the medical records as the medical director and producer of the records and was entitled to possession of the original records when he left Pain Care. In addition, he claims he continued to serve as the medical director even after the written contract was terminated by working as the clinic's only physician and by signing documents as medical director. Dr. Edwards further claimed that the medical records were the most valuable assets of the business, entitling him to most of the sale proceeds.

Dr. Edwards presented the testimony of Paul Bauman, an expert on business valuation. Mr. Bauman opined that pain clinic patients are notoriously loyal and that 90% of those patients would typically follow Dr. Edwards to a new clinic as long as he could continue to provide them with pain medication. In order to prescribe pain medication, however, Dr. Edwards needed the medical records. Mr. Bauman estimated that Dr. Edwards lost approximately $470,000 in income at the new clinic because he did not get the patients' medical records when he moved and, as a consequence, was not able to treat those patients.

One of the owners of Pain Care, Ken Lester, Jr., testified that Pain Care owned the medical records. He testified that Dr. Edwards was an independent contractor paid on an hourly basis and had no ownership interest in the clinic or its medical records. Thus, Appellant argues, even if Dr. Edwards may have become the technical owner of the medical records while medical director, the records reverted back to Pain Care when the written agreement was mutually terminated. Yet, Pain Care never entered into another employment agreement with Dr. Edwards in which the clinic was specifically designated as the owner of the ...


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