Privileged communications include conversations and statements made during confidential interactions between two parties. These parties, by law, must fall into the classification of those entitled to a private and protected relationship. Neither party can be forced to disclose these communications, and the communications cannot be compelled for use as evidence in court.
To ensure such confidentiality and protection, the communications must occur in a private setting (e.g., a conference room) where both parties can have a reasonable expectation of not being overheard by others. The parties also need to be in what is referred to as a privileged communications relationship.
Commonly cited privileged communication relationships include:
- Attorney and client
- Accountant and client
- Physician or therapist and patient
- Psychotherapist and patient/Client (only in certain states)
- Clergyperson and parishioner/penitent
- Two spouses (during marriage and after a dissolution)
- Reporter and source (in some states)
Within professional relationships, where one party provides services to the other party, the protection of communications belongs to the one receiving the services, such as the patient, client, or penitent. If the other party reveals information concerning the protected communications, they risk losing their license to practice or operate.
Privileged communication status ends if a protected communication is shared with some third party that is not a part of the established protected relationship. The definition of third party in this instance excludes those persons considered agents of a party, such as a lawyer’s secretary or a physician’s nurse. The privileged status of communications is not deemed jeopardized and, therefore, continues to receive confidentiality and protection.
Privileged communication status can also end in instances where there is a clear potential for harm or a threat of such harm. For example, if a patient mentions plans to harm another person, that information is not required to remain confidential. If a medical professional believes a patient is intent on harming themselves, the protective status of communications also dissolves.
Baer Reed provides expert privilege and document review services. To learn more about what our attorneys and organization can do for you, contact us today.
- On August 10, 2022
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