Secret médical : l’expertise judiciaire n’excuse pas tout !

Dans l’office qui est le sien, le juge doit, dans les contentieux techniques, s’adjoindre les compétences d’un technicien, communément appelé expert judiciaire, qui, aux termes de son rapport, l’éclairera sur la décision à prendre, le rapport d’expertise n’étant toutefois pas l’alpha et l’omega de l’instruction d’un procès dès lors que d’autres éléments de preuve peuvent intervenir en ligne de compte. Pour autant qu’une expertise soit ordonnée, le juge ne peut raisonnablement méconnaître l’exigence de respect du secret médical, ce que nous rappelle un arrêt rendu le 11 juin 2009 par la première Chambre civile de la Cour de cassation.

En effet, dans le cadre d’un contentieux opposant la victime d’une incapacité temporaire de travail à son assureur, le juge judiciaire a ordonné une expertise avant-dire droit sur l’étendue de la période de garantie. Il a été notamment demandé à l’expert désigné d’entendre tous médecins ayant connu de la situation de l’assurée. Les conclusions du rapport étant défavorables à cette dernière, la cour d’appel la condamne à la restitution de diverses indemnités qui, en réalité, seront compensées.

La victime a saisi la Cour de cassation d’un pourvoi fondé sur les articles L.1110-4 et R.4127-4 du code de la santé publique relatifs au secret médical. Avec succès, puisque la première Chambre civile lui donne raison :

« le juge civil ne peut, en l’absence de disposition législative spécifique l’y autorisant, ordonner une expertise judiciaire en impartissant à l’expert une mission qui porte atteinte au secret médical sans subordonner l’exécution de cette mission à l’autorisation préalable du patient concerné, sauf à tirer toutes conséquences du refus illégitime ».

L’expert judiciaire, dût-il être commis par le juge afin de faire la lumière sur les circonstances de l’affaire et afin d’aider ce dernier à trancher le litige soumis à son appréciation, ne peut dépasser certaines limites, même pour mener à bien sa mission.

Ce n’est évidemment pas la première fois que la Haute juridiction se prononce sur le secret médical.

Par arrêt du 7 décembre 2004, la Cour de cassation, mais la deuxième chambre cette fois, avait déjà eu l’occasion d’énoncer cette solution en précisant deux points : d’une part, « le secret médical (constitue) un empêchement légitime que l’établissement de santé a la faculté d’invoquer » ; d’autre part, « il appartient au juge saisi sur le fond d’apprécier, en présence de désaccord  de la personne concernée ou de ses ayants droit, si celui-ci tend à faire respecter un intérêt légitime ou à faire écarter un élément de preuve et d’en tirer toute conséquence quant à l’exécution du contrat d’assurance ». ((Cass. Civ. 2ème, 7 décembre 2004, n°02-12.539, Bull. civ. II, n°306, RGDA 2005, p. 105, note Kullmann.)).

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