United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Galveston Division
MICHAEL DOUGLAS GRIFFITH, as owner of the M/V Wellcraft Center Console, ET AL. Petitioners.
PAUL SANTILLAN, ET AL. Claimants.
M. EDISON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
me is a request that I order Claimant Paul Santillan
("Santillan") to submit to an independent medical
examination pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 35
("Rule 35"). See Dkt. 37. After reviewing
the parties' written submissions, hearing oral argument,
and reviewing the applicable case law, I believe an
independent medical examination ("IME") is
appropriate in this case.
lawsuit arose from an incident that occurred during a fishing
trip aboard the M/V Wellcraft Center Console Charter Boat
(the "Vessel") in the summer of 2017. According to
Santillan, the driver of the Vessel accelerated to a very
high rate of speed, hit the wake of a wave, and launched
Santillan, a passenger on the Vessel, out of his seat. When
Santillan landed back on the Vessel, he says that he struck
the seat extremely hard, suffering immediate pain and
injuries to his neck, lower back, and tailbone area.
Santillan further alleges that the driver continued to
operate the Vessel in a negligent manner and at a high rate
of speed, causing him to fly upward a second time, further
aggravating his injuries.
Michael Douglas, Jr. and Lori Griffith, as owners of the
Vessel, and Michael Coleton Griffith, individually and d/b/a
Get Fishy Charters, as owner pro hac vice of the Vessel
(collectively "Petitioners"), invoked this
Court's admiralty jurisdiction by filing a Complaint and
Petition for Exoneration From or Limitation of Liability.
Santillan timely filed a claim seeking damages for personal
injuries he allegedly sustained as a result of the incident.
have requested that Santillan undergo an IME with. Dr.
Michael Kaldis, a Board-Certified orthopedic surgeon.
Santillan has objected to the request for an IME, claiming
that Petitioners have failed to establish good cause for
conducting such an examination.
provides that a district court "may order a party whose
mental or physical condition ... is in controversy to submit
to a physical or mental examination by a suitably licensed or
certified examiner." Fed.R.Civ.P. 35(a). Such an order
may be made "only on motion for good cause and on notice
to all parties and the person to be examined."
an order for a physical examination is not automatically
granted in all cases, district courts in the Fifth Circuit
have uniformly held that Rule 35(a) should be construed
liberally in favor of granting discovery. See, e.g.,
Valenzuela v. Willete, No. 5:14-cv-00062, 2015 WL
12843209, at *1 (S.D. Tex. May 15, 2015); Lahr v.
Fulbright & Jaworski, LLP, 164 F.R.D. 204, 207 n.1
(N.D. Tex. 1996). Ultimately, the decision on whether to
order an IME is left to the sound discretion of the district
court. See Teche Lines v. Boyette, 111 F.2d 579, 581
(5th Cir. 1940).
35, as contrasted with the other discovery provisions, is
distinct in its requirements that the party requesting such a
mental or physical examination must affirmatively establish
that the condition is 'in controversy' and 'good
cause' exists for the examination, two requirements which
are 'necessarily related.'" Ornelas v. S.
Tire Mart, LLC, 292 F.R.D. 388, 391 (S.D. Tex. 2013)
(citation omitted). All the requirements under Rule 35(a) are
satisfied in this case.
Santillan's Condition Is "In Controversy"
undisputed that Santillan's medical and physical
condition is "in controversy." Indeed, Santillan
has put his medical and physical condition at issue by
asserting a negligence claim. See Schlagenhauf v.
Holder, 379 U.S. 104, 119 (1964) ("A plaintiff in a
negligence action who asserts mental or physical injury
places that mental or physical injury clearly in
controversy.") (citation omitted). A cursory glance at
Santillan's Answer, Affirmative Defenses, and Claim for
Damages clearly reflects that Santillan's medical and
physical condition are of critical importance to his personal
• "As [a] result of Mr. Griffith's negligence,
[Santillan] sustained severe personal injuries, including a
compression fracture of his second lumbar vertebra."
Dkt. 12 at 2
• "Due to the gravity of the injuries stated above,
[Santillan] has had to seek reasonable and necessary medical
care and attention, and this has caused [Santillan] to incur
reasonable and necessary medical expenses for the ...