Saturday, April 13, 2013

Samaritan Foundation v. Goodfarb case brief

Samaritan Foundation v. Goodfarb case brief summary
176 Ariz. 497, 862 P.2d 870 (1993)

Petitioner hospital and medical foundation requested a review of an order from the Court of Appeals (Arizona), which rejected petitioners' claim of attorney-client privilege as to communications of petitioners' employees to petitioners' counsel concerning a surgical procedure, the result of which gave rise to a medical negligence action.

-Petitioner hospital and medical foundation were defendants in a medical negligence action and the lower court affirmed an order that rendered communications between petitioners' employees and petitioners' counsel as discoverable attorney work-product and not within the absolute protection of petitioners' attorney-client privilege.
-Petitioners sought review of the lower court's decision and the court affirmed the denial of petitioners' relief.

The court found that application of a functional approach focusing on the communication rather than the communicator resulted in a finding that the communications were not privileged.

The court held that the communications were not privileged because petitioners' employees were not seeking legal advice in confidence, their actions did not subject petitioners to potential liability, their statements concerned the events going on around them and not their conduct, and the statements were not made in response to the legal consequences of their conduct within the scope of their employment.

The court found that as the employees were merely witnesses to the event, their statements were not protected under an attorney-client privilege.

-There must be an attorney-client relationship before the attorney-client privilege exists.
-To be privileged, the communication must be made to or by the lawyer for the purpose of securing or giving legal advice, must be made in confidence, and must be treated as confidential.
-Thus, not all communications to one's lawyer are privileged.

OUTCOME: An order denying relief to petitioner hospital and medical foundation from discovery of employee communications to petitioners' counsel concerning a surgical event underlying a medical negligence action as attorney-client privilege was affirmed on the grounds that the statements were not privileged because they concerned the surgical event as witnessed by the employees and not the employees' conduct in the scope of employment with petitioners.

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