Plaintiff’s Expert’s Conclusions Protected by Work Product Doctrine

In a recent case, a man sued the maker of his utility terrain vehicle (UTV) after the UTV overturned, and the roof failed, causing his injuries. The man designated four expert witnesses to testify in his case at trial. For one of the experts he designated, the man said the expert would testify as to the UTV’s performance, the forces involved in the accident, and factors affecting the UTV’s performance. The man did not explain the expert’s analysis or his conclusions on the issues in the case. Shortly afterward, the man told the defendant and the court that he was no longer going to use the expert as one of his witnesses. However, the defendant then requested to have the expert’s deposition taken, seemingly to find out what his conclusions were.

GavelThe plaintiff objected, arguing that the expert’s opinions and conclusions were protected by the “work product doctrine”—a doctrine that protects materials prepared for or by an attorney in anticipation of litigation. The defendant argued the plaintiff had waived any protection under the work product protection because, as an expert, the conclusions would have been disclosed.

The trial court agreed with the defendant, finding that the plaintiff had waived the protections of the work product doctrine by designating the expert as a witness. However, the state’s supreme court reversed. The court concluded that a party designating an expert witness by itself is not a waiver of the work product doctrine. It also concluded that in this case, the man’s actions did not waive the work product privilege. As a result, the expert’s conclusions were protected under the work product doctrine, and the plaintiff did not have disclose them to the defendants.

The Work Product Doctrine in Illinois

In Illinois, the information that is subject to discovery is governed primarily by Illinois Court Rules, set by the state Supreme Court. Under Rule 201(b), all information that is “privileged,” or protected, at trial is also privileged during discovery. The work product doctrine refers to information “prepared by or for a party in preparation for trial.” According to Rule 201(b), this information is required to be disclosed unless “it does not contain or disclose the theories, mental impressions, or litigation plans of the party’s attorney.”

The work product doctrine is different from the attorney-client privilege, which protects communications between a client and his or her attorney. In contrast, the work product doctrine protects work done for the case in anticipation of litigation. It is meant to protect the thoughts, impressions, and research of a party so that the party’s adversary cannot obtain them simply through discovery. Yet it generally does not protect the names or statements of witnesses. The protection can also be waived in some circumstances. Protecting the information uncovered in a case is key, and it is important to know what you do and do not have to disclose in order to comply with discovery rules.

Contact a Personal Injury Attorney Today

The Chicago personal injury attorneys at Moll Law Group represent individuals and families nationwide in personal injury claims, including those related to auto defects and car accidents. We have the sophistication and boldness to fight powerful corporations around the globe. If you or a loved one was injured, our attorneys can help you pursue compensation for your losses. We represent individuals in Cook County and surrounding counties, as well as in many other states, in product liability cases. If you would like a prompt and confidential evaluation of your case, contact us by using our online form or by phone at 312-462-1700.

See More Posts:

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Baby Powder Found to Cause Cancer; Moll Law Group Can Help, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, November 7, 2016.