Archive: June 15, 2005

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Online Questionnaire Submitted by Prospective Clients Confidential Despite Waiver of Attorney-Client Relationship

Online Questionnaire Submitted by Prospective Clients Confidential Despite Waiver of Attorney-Client Relationship

Andrew Barton et al. v. United States District Court for the Central District of California, 2005 WL 1355481 (9th Cir. 2005)

A law firm posted a questionnaire on the Internet to gather information regarding class members for potential litigation against SmithKline Beecham Corporation (“SmithKline”). The action under consideration was for injury related to use of the anti-depressant medication Paxil. The firm decided to pursue the matter, and SmithKline sought production of completed questionnaires in order to compare responses to plaintiffs’ deposition testimony. U.S. Judge Mariana Pfaelzer held that confidentiality was waived via disclaimers on the questionnaires, despite the questionnaires constituting preliminary consultations with attorneys which are normally privileged. She ordered production of the four trial plaintiffs’ questionnaires, and plaintiffs sought a writ of mandamus to reverse this decision arguing that the questionnaires are subject to attorney-client privilege. Read More

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