Friday, April 06, 2007

Nebraska Supreme Court signals it will protect attorney client communications more than work product in discovery proceedings. State ex rel. Stivrins v. Flowers, S-06-1044, 273 Neb. 336 Plaintiff sued Lincoln physician Timothy Stivrins for failure to diagnose lung cancer. Plaintiff's counsel notices the doctor's partner physician for a deposition and prior to the deposition the partner physician sought legal advice from the same lawyer who represented the defendant. Plaintiff counsel questioned the witness about attorney client communications he had with the defendant's counsel. The district court upheld the plaintiff's motion to compel. Defendant filed this mandamus action in the Supreme Court against the district court and affirms the writ. While the Supreme Court in its Greenwalt v. Wal-Mart Stores, 253 Neb. 32, 567 N.W.2d 560 (1997) decision applied a balancing test for work product claims after a party established a prima facie case for protection, the court here appears to shut off any discovery of attorney client communications as long as the party makes a prima facie case for the privilege. Although the court in Hallie Mgmt. Co. v. Perry, 272 Neb. 81, 718 N.W.2d 531 (2006) denied an interlocutory appeal from an adverse ruling against a party's privilege claim, the supreme court distinguishes the result against the privilege in that case because the party seeking protection did not file their claim as a mandamus action. "Once pace established the attorney-client relationship, the plaintiff had the burden to establish that the inquiry related to or was an exception to this rule or that the communications wereoutside the scope of the privilege and further an appeal after the disclosure of the privileged communications at issue would be an inadequate remedy in this case."

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