In re Lifschutz

2 Cal. 3d 415, 85 Cal. Rptr. 829, 467 P.2d 557 (1970)

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In re Lifschutz

California Supreme Court
2 Cal. 3d 415, 85 Cal. Rptr. 829, 467 P.2d 557 (1970)

  • Written by Nicole Gray , JD

Facts

Dr. Joseph E. Lifschutz (plaintiff) was held in contempt of a judge’s order that Lifschutz comply with discovery requests of a defendant to litigation that was initiated by one of Lifschutz’s former patients, Joseph F. Housek. Housek had filed suit in a California superior court to recover damages for injuries that he sustained from an alleged assault, claiming that he suffered severe mental and emotional distress. When deposed, Housek mentioned that he had been treated by Dr. Lifschutz for a six-month period a decade prior to the alleged assault but provided no further details. The defendant then subpoenaed Dr. Lifschutz for deposition along with Housek’s medical records. Dr. Lifschutz appeared for the deposition but refused to produce Housek’s medical records or answer whether Housek was ever his patient; he claimed that the information was privileged. However, Housek never asserted any privileges. The superior court granted a motion to compel Dr. Lifschutz’s compliance with the defendant’s subpoena. The court found that because Housek had instituted the litigation, raising the issue of his mental and emotional condition, the patient-litigant exception made the psychotherapist-patient privilege inapplicable. The defendant tried resuming the deposition but got the same results. That led to the court’s finding of Dr. Lifschutz in contempt of its earlier order and ordering that he be detained. Dr. Lifschutz filed a motion to show cause for his detention and writ of habeas corpus for his release.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Tobriner, J.)

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