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COA affirms denial of plaintiff’s request for deposition fee reimbursement

February 13, 2015

A doctor named as a defendant in a malpractice lawsuit was not required to pay more than $2,000 toward the deposition fees of the plaintiff’s expert, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled.

Brian Beckerman sued Dr. Nimu Surtani and Central Indiana Orthopedics P.C. for medical malpractice and obtained an affidavit from Dr. Randall Smith in Pennsylvania that concluded Surtani’s treatment was negligent. Surtani sought to depose Smith, who charged $4,000 up front for four hours of deposition testimony and $400 per hour for preparation time. The trial court eventually ruled that Surtani would pay $2,000 for two hours of deposition time and two hours of preparation time.

The deposition lasted less than two hours.

For reasons not explained in the record, Beckerman had his complaint dismissed with prejudice. He then sought reimbursement from Surtani for the $2,000 Beckerman had advanced to Smith. The trial court denied his motion.

Because Surtani sought to depose Smith, it was proper for the trial court to order him to pay some of Smith’s fees, the COA held.

“The proper question is not whether Beckerman was entitled to reimbursement for Dr. Smith’s preparation time but whether a $4,000 fee for a deposition that actually lasted about one hour and forty minutes was reasonable. According to the trial court, it was not: the court expressly found $1,000 per hour to be a reasonable fee for an expert’s deposition, and there is no dispute that Dr. Smith’s deposition lasted less than two hours and nowhere near four hours,” Judge Edward Najam wrote in Brian Beckerman v. Nimu Surtani, M.D., and Central Indiana Orthopedics, P.C., 48A02-1407-PL-527. “Accordingly, pursuant to the trial court’s express finding, Dr. Surtani was obliged to pay not more than $2,000 of Dr. Smith’s deposition fee. Dr. Surtani did so. Thus, we cannot say that the trial court abused its discretion when it denied Beckerman’s motion for reimbursement.”

 

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