Can Documents Produced in Mediation Be Used in Litigation?

The Mediation Confidentiality Privilege: How Broad Is It?

The Mediation Confidentiality Privilege: How Broad Is It?When you seek to resolve a dispute through mediation, one of the reassurances you will often receive from counsel is that “all mediation communications and documents are privileged.” On its face, this seems to indicate that any documents produced for purposes of the mediation may not be subject to disclosure in subsequent litigation. But courts in at least two states have found clear cut exceptions to this expectation. In both Pennsylvania and in California, courts have held that documents that “exist…independent of the mediation…[are] not subject to this privilege.

In both cases, attorneys for a client in mediation exchanged documents as part of mediation, but mediation efforts failed. In subsequent litigation, opposing counsel sought production of those documents, and the courts agreed that they were subject to production.

In both situations, the attorneys seeking the documents successfully argued that the documents existed before and independent of the mediation process. They were not compiled or created specifically for the mediation, but were created in the ordinary course of business or for other record keeping purposes. The attorneys seeking the documents successfully argued that, if the parties had not attempted mediation, but had gone directly to trial, the documents would likely have been subject to production based on applicable rules. The mere fact that they were produced in an attempt to further mediation proceedings could not be used “as a shield” to keep those documents from being discovered. Instead, the key question was whether they existed independent of the mediation.

So what’s the takeaway? Don’t expect to be able to use the mediation confidentiality privilege to prevent your opponents from having access to readily discoverable documents, just because they were produced in mediation.

Contact the Law Office of Len Conner & Associates

At the Law Office of Len Conner Associates, we offer a free initial consultation in all family law matters, including issues relating to divorce. Send us an e-mail or call our office at (972) 445-1500 or 972-445-1500 if you’re in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Or call us toll free at (877) 613-5800 for an appointment.

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