Because so many people are involved in the everyday step of sending records from a law office to an expert, the mistake of inadvertantly including privileged information occurs now and again. Is it waiver? Will the jury see it?
In Nan H. Mullins, D.M.D. v. Alice Tompkins (Benton, Webster and Roberts), the unfortunate defense counsel faced this discovery catestrophe and it lead to an appeal. In this case, the defense expert received a copy of defense counsel’s evaluation letter sent to the defendant and insurance company as well as emails between defendant and lawyer.
The court held that the documents were ordinarily privileged and that mere accidental production does not automatically waive the privilege, see Fla.R.Civ.P. 1.280(b)(4)(B). Since, here, the expert testified he never read nor relied upon them, there was no breach and no reason for disclosure (although we are curious how this was not caught during the expert’s review of what was sent to him and the lawyer’s pre-deposition conference).
The Panel further pointed out that even if it was discoverable, it may not be admissible to be paraded in front of the jury.