We’ve compiled a list of answers to the most frequently asked questions from our members. They are designed to give you a better understanding of our organization, our services, and other technical information.
- How do I know a subpoena is legitimate?
Subpoena’s are issued for a variety of reasons and in a number of contexts. The most common uses relate to the production of records or the appearance of a witness at a trial or hearing. Only subpoenas with an “authorized signature” by an “attorney of record,” the clerk of the court, or a judge are valid and enforceable. An “authorized signature” can be written by hand, stamped, typed, photographed, or lithographed. The subpoena must be imprinted with the Seal of the Supreme Court of Michigan, provide the case number assigned by the state and the Court’s location, set forth the date, time and place of the hearing and the title of the action, and state that a failure to comply may subject the recipient to penalties for contempt of court. If it contains these elements, it is presumptively valid and must be complied with. If you receive a subpoena that is questionable in any way, please call call 616.202.2288 and request to speak with Risk Management or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- What if I’m subpoenaed to appear at a trial or hearing?
The law requires that the signer of a subpoena provide “reasonable notice” of the date and time of appearance. It must be served “at least 2 days” before the witness is to appear. A failure to comply with the subpoena may be considered contempt of court. The party issuing the subpoena must take “reasonable steps” to keep the witness informed of adjournments or changes in the hearing or trial schedule. If the served witness notifies the party that it is “impossible” for the witness to be in Court as directed, the party must either excuse the witness from attendance at that time or notify the witness that a special hearing may be held to adjudicate the issues. If you are subpoenaed to testify at a trial or a hearing, you are strongly encouraged to contact your practice manager or MPIE Risk Management for assistance with any logistical or substantive concerns.
- What if I am subpoenaed to testify in a civil or criminal deposition?
Health care providers are often asked to provide factual and/or expert testimony in both civil and criminal matters. Attorneys for any party can issue subpoenas requiring a provider to appear at a time and place of their choosing, although it has to be in the county where the witness resides. More often than not someone from the requesting attorney’s office will first contact the provider to set up a mutually agreeable date for a proposed deposition. Testimony sought at these depositions can range from innocuous to significant in many contexts and thus before responding to any request there are several steps which should be considered.
First, understand that if the initial request is ignored, it may well be followed by a subpoena with a date and time over which you have no control. Lesson here—don't ignore the request—it probably won’t go away.
Two, have your practice manager obtain the name of the action (criminal or civil) and the identity of all parties and their counsel.
Three, contact MPIE Risk Management for assistance with respect to whether the requested testimony may present any potential, professional liability exposure for you or other involved health care providers. Well intentioned but unprepared testimony can (and often does) lead to devastating professional outcomes during a skillful cross by an experienced attorney. As appropriate, we will obtain legal counsel to assist you with any potential issues surrounding your anticipated testimony, and its scope.
- What do I do when I receive a Subpoena?
A copy of the patient’s medical record should only be released after the physician has reviewed the request. The subpoena must be accompanied by the patient’s signed authorization for release. If the request appears to be related to a legal action against the physician, notify the MPIE Claims Department before releasing the record.