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Discovery and Work Product

In any civil lawsuit, the parties will engage in discovery during which they will exchange documents and depose witnesses to attempt to obtain facts in support of their position. Not all materials are discoverable, however, as certain information is protected by privilege. In a recent product liability case in which it is alleged that medication caused birth defects,  the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts discussed when a plaintiff can be compelled to disclose information relied upon by and obtained from a consulting expert. If you were or a loved one suffered injuries due to  a defective product you should speak with a trusted Massachusetts personal injury attorney about your potential claims.

Facts and Procedure of the Case

It is reported that plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against the defendant setting forth product liability claims alleging that  drug manufactured by the defendant and prescribed to pregnant women caused birth defects in their children. In part, the plaintiffs relied on a report by an expert third-party witness, in support of their argument that the defendant’s drug caused birth defects. The defendants sought to depose the third-party witness, and sought documents regarding the relationship between the plaintiffs’ attorneys and the third-party witness via discovery. Plaintiffs and the third-party witness both filed motions for a protective order arguing that the documents sought were protected by the work-product doctrine. The court ultimately denied the motions, finding that the documents were not privileged.

Documents Protected by the Work-Product Doctrine

Initially, the court noted that some of the documents sought by the defendant were slides from a presentation the third-party witness and plaintiffs’ attorney gave in Las Vegas. Therefore, the court found that the documents were note intended to be confidential and were not protected by the work product doctrine. Specifically, the court explained that the work-product doctrine can be waived through disclosure by a third-party. The court noted, however, that the waiver is not automatic but that it only happens when the documents are employed in a manner that is contrary to the doctrine’s purpose and greatly increases the likelihood of potential opponents obtaining the information.

In the subject case, the court noted that some of the documents that the plaintiffs sought to protect were presenting at a public conference, which was in opposition to the premises of confidentiality and vastly increased the potential for the plaintiffs’ adversaries to obtain the information. Thus, the court ruled that the materials were not protected under the work product doctrine.

Meet with a Skillful Massachusetts Personal Injury Attorney

If you or a loved one sustained damages due to an unsafe medication it is prudent to meet with a skillful Massachusetts personal injury attorney to discuss your harm and what compensation you may be able to pursue from the parties that caused your injuries. The proficient personal injury attorneys of Karsner & Meehan will work tirelessly to develop strong arguments in support of your position to help you seek a favorable result. You can contact us through our online form or at 508-822-6600 to set up a meeting to discuss your potential claims.