Communications Between Attorney and Testifying Expert Are Discoverable in Pennsylvania

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Addressing an issue of first impression in Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Superior Court recently concluded that an attorney's communications with a testifying expert are discoverable. This important decision puts Pennsylvania law squarely at odds with the newly amended Federal Rule 26(b)(4), set to take effect December 1, 2010, which prohibits discovery of drafts of an expert's reports as well as communication between counsel and the expert. Now, as much as ever, it is critical to understand the venue-specific rules on communications with experts.

In Barrick v. Holy Spirit Hospital of the Sisters of Christian Charity, No. 1856 MDA 2009, 2010 PA Super 170 (Pa. Super. Sept. 16, 2010), Carl Barrick claimed to be injured when the chair he was sitting on in a hospital cafeteria collapsed. Barrick was treated by Dr. Thomas Green, whom plaintiff's counsel also identified as an expert. In discovery, plaintiff's counsel produced the medical treatment records but, citing the privilege afforded attorney-work product, refused to produce communications between plaintiff's counsel and Dr. Green. Following an in camera review, the trial court concluded that the communications between counsel and the expert were discoverable.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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