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.
The 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.