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Disclosure

When a non-party witness is deposed, is there any place in the deposition room for the witness’ counsel? In two cases, Thompson v Mather, and Sciara v Surgical Assoc., the Fourth Department took a hard line against any participation by counsel for the witness. The court read CPLR 3113 as denying counsel any right to participate in any way, and as most definitely denying counsel any right to object on any ground, whether based on privilege or otherwise.

Effective September 23, 2014, CPLR 3113 (c) has now been amended so as to overrule this line of cases. A new sentence has been added, allowing counsel for a non-party deponent to participate in the deposition and make objections on behalf of the deponent in the same manner as counsel for a party. Read More

Kneisel v QPH, Inc.,

___ AD3d ___, ___ NYS2d ___, 2015 NY Slip Op 00503 [2nd Dept., 2015]
The issue here was whether medical privilege blocked the disclosure of the name and address of the plaintiff’s decedent’s fellow patient, who might have witnessed the acts of malpractice and negligence alleged against the defendant hospital.
As a general matter, if disclosure of their names and addresses of fellow patients will not carry with it any information which would also disclose their diagnosis and treatment, the privilege is not violated. So, in Rabinowitz v St. John’s Episcopal Hosp., 24 AD3d 530, the alleged negligence occurred in an emergency room. Plaintiff’s decedent fell from a gurney, leading to his death. Plaintiff sought disclosure of the names and addresses of patients in the treatment area, so as to ascertain whether there were any witnesses to the fall. The court held that disclosure of the names and addresses of non-party patients who may have been eyewitnesses does not violate the doctor-patient privileges of the non-party patients, provided that the demanding party does not seek to identify patients by the treatment they received and provided that the location in the hospital does not itself reveal the non–party’s medical status. Since an emergency room provides a broad range of services, disclosure in Rabinowitz did not violate the privilege.
In Kneisel, by contrast, both the plaintiff’s decedent and the fellow-patient were residents of Holliswood Hospital, in a unit for children from 12 to 15 years of age suffering from specific psychiatric disorders. Disclosure of the roommate’s presence in that unit would necessarily have revealed her medical status, and so disclosure was prohibited by the medical privilege.

Mohel v Gavriel Plaza, Inc.,

___ AD3d ___, ___ NYS2d ___, 2014 NY Slip Op 08508 [1st Dept., 2014]
This terse decision prompts a review of the rules governing the deposition site of out-of-state parties, as well as of depositions by video conference. The nature of the action is not stated, but the defendant Highland was a Limited Liability Company with one member, a resident of Israel. The Appellate Division affirmed Supreme Court’s order conditionally striking Highland’s answer unless it produced that member for deposition in New York. The court observed that the plaintiff did not have to consent to the member’s deposition by video conference. (See, CPLR 3113 [d])
The general rule is that absent a showing of hardship, a party to an action in our courts must be deposed in New York, and must bear its own expenses in coming here. Compare Criscenti v Verizon, 72 A.D.3d 464, where a corporate party showed no hardship and had to come to New York for deposition; with Gartner v Unified Windows, Doors & Siding, Inc., 68 A.D.3d 815, where a decedent’s next of kin lived in Colombia and could not come to New York without hardship. Alternatives to a New York deposition were allowed and listed.
Two recent cases illustrate the point.  Read More