Alex Rodriguez’s lawyers want to keep a lid on potential video of him being questioned in his lawsuit against a New York Yankees team doctor, and a judge indicated Tuesday they might have valid concerns about sensitive medical queries becoming fodder for online sensation.
But a lawyer for the doctor cautioned the court against affording special protections to a celebrity, even though the attorney said he had no intention of releasing such a video, if it eventually is made.
The dispute — an early skirmish in the suspended Yankees slugger’s legal fight over treatment of a 2012 hip injury — hints at the heat the case could generate, even though it’s separate from the Rodriguez’s bigger and now-resolved battle against Major League Baseball.
"The reality is that Mr. Rodriguez is a celebrity," so someone could aim to use such a video in ways that would raise privacy concerns, Bronx state Supreme Court Justice Douglas McKeon said Tuesday. He suggested that that attorneys for both sides agree not to disseminate the possible video to anyone else without the court’s input.
There’s no pact as yet; another court date is set April 4.
Last month, Rodriguez withdrew two lawsuits against Major League Baseball over its investigation into whether he used banned, performance-enhancing drugs, which he has denied. The 38-year-old third baseman agreed to accept a season-long suspension, the longest penalty in baseball history related to performance boosters.
But he is continuing to pursue his medical malpractice case against orthopedic surgeon Dr. Christopher Ahmad and New York-Presbyterian Hospital, where the MRI was done.
Rodriguez’s suit says Ahmad didn’t tell Rodriguez that an October 2012 MRI showed a left hip joint tear. Rodriguez says he therefore kept playing — in the American League playoffs — and worsened the injury, which ultimately required January 2013 surgery that kept him from rejoining the Yankees until last August.
Ahmad and the hospital deny the allegations. Ahmad’s "care of Mr. Rodriguez was always according to appropriate standards of care," said his lawyer, Peter T. Crean.
Depositions, or sworn pretrial questioning outside court, are customary in civil cases and can be videotaped. They’re often not made public before trial.
New York courts have sometimes nixed video depositions on grounds that they could be tools of humiliation. In 1999, an appeals court ruled that Marla Maples’ former publicist couldn’t depose her on camera, saying he was mainly seeking "a unique opportunity to further his harassment and embarrassment of Maples."
But a judge denied model Fabio’s 1995 bid to keep cameras from rolling at his deposition or bar its distribution; the judge said there wasn’t evidence to support his worry that his adversaries in the case, a legal fee fight, would sell the tape.
Rodriguez wants to avoid leaks of video of him answering potentially touchy medical questions, said his lawyer, Alan S. Ripka.
He said he couldn’t be sure what defense lawyers might ask. It’s not clear whether performance enhancing drugs might be raised, although they aren’t at issue in the case now.
Regardless, "just because he’s a famous baseball player doesn’t mean he’s not sensitive about personal medical issues," and it wouldn’t be fair if his demeanor in discussing them became grist for commentary, Ripka said.
But Ahmad’s lawyer said that Rodriguez’s concerns were speculative, and that his privacy concerns didn’t merit special safeguards when he instigated the case and the publicity that came with it.
"We’re at risk of setting a tone here that this case should be handled differently because of (Rodriguez)," and doing that would put Ahmad at a disadvantage, he said.
Meanwhile, Ahmad and the hospital are seeking to have the case moved to Manhattan, which Rodriguez’s camp opposes. That issue also will be up for discussion April 4.