Do You Ask About Personal Notes?

Here is a great case out of Illinois that reminds us of the importance of asking each fact witness about whether they have made any personal notes concerning the event at issue.

In Cangelosi v. Capasso, No. 03–L–392, (Ill. Ct. App, 2nd Dis. June 30, 2006), plaintiff asked that a nurse who made personal notes about treatment made within a day of the event at issue be compelled to produce them in litigation.  She resisted that effort, saying that she made the notes in contemplation of litigation. At her deposition,  the nurse "testified that her notes memorialized factual things that she saw, factual things that she did, and factual things that she saw other people do. The notes include things that the doctors may have said during her shift regarding plaintiff’s care. After completing her notes, defendant nurse] placed them in a folder in her kitchen cabinet. "

The court ordered production of the notes, saying that they were not protected by the attorney – client privilege because they were not a communication to an attorney for purposes of securing legal advice.  Nor were they protected by the work product doctrine, because " they do not ‘contain or disclose the theories, mental impressions, or litigation plans of the party’s attorney.’"

I have been in cases where a nurse or other fact witness went home after the event and made personal notes about what occurred.  The information contained in those notes is often very helpful to the case.

Read the decision here.