Medical malpractice claims are very complex and adversarial, and in that environment every edge counts. In reviewing cases with doctors to act as your expert, they sometimes have preliminary reports in the form of an email based on their initial understanding of part of the medical record. This is done in preparation for filing a lawsuit or for trial and should be kept between the attorney and expert. In a perfect world the expert will call the Plaintiff's lawyer to discuss his opinions, but with the convenience of email that is not always the case.
A preliminary report by an expert containing mental impressions based on initial review of case should be protected under Rule 56.01(b)(3) as Trial preparation materials. Rule 56.01(b)(3) states that a
"party may obtain discovery of documents and tangible things otherwise discoverable under Rule 56.01(b)(1) and prepared in anticipation of litigation or for trial by or for another party or by or for that other party's representative, including an attorney, consultant, [...] only upon a showing that the party seeking discovery has substantial need of the materials in the preparation of the case and that the adverse party is unable without undue hardship to obtain the substantial equivalent of the materials by other means."
The work product doctrine in Missouri protects from discovery both tangible and intangible work product. Ratcliff v. Sprint Mo., Inc., 261 S.W.3d 534, 547 (Mo.App. W.D.2008). Tangible work product consists of documents and materials prepared for trial and is given a qualified protection under Rule 56.01(b)(3). Therefore a preliminary report sent to counsel by their expert is protected from discovery as trial preparation materials if the preliminary report is: (1) documents or tangible things, (2) prepared by or for a party or a representative of that party, (3) in anticipation of litigation or for trial. State ex rel. Ford Motor Co. v. Westbrooke, 151 S.W.3d 364, 367 (Mo. banc 2004)
Such trial preparation materials may be discovered only if the party seeking discovery shows a substantial need for them in the preparation of the case and an inability to obtain the substantial equivalent of them without undue hardship. Rule 56.01(b)(3).See Edwards v. Mo. State Bd. of Chiropractic Examiners, 85 S.W.3d 10, 26 (Mo.App. W.D.2002).
Moreover, Rule 56.01(b)(3) requires that in ordering discovery of such materials stated above, when the required showing has been made, "the court shall protect against disclosure of the mental impressions, conclusions, opinions, or legal theories of an attorney or other representative [expert witness] of a party concerning the litigation." Therefore, even if the party seeking the report show the substantial need and undue hardship, the preliminary report contains nothing but the Relator's expert's mental impressions, conclusions, and opinions and thus must be protected in its entirety. In this case the Court ordered the entire report produced.
Additionally, Missouri Rule 57.03 does not authorize the noticing party or require the witness to produce documents simply because they are requested. Under Rule 57.03, any Notice of Deposition requesting production of documents must be accompanied by a subpoena. State ex rel. Missouri Highway and Transportation Commission v Anderson, 759 SW2d 102 (Mo App S.D. 1988) holding, In connection with and experts deposition, a party may obtain the expert's records relating to the case by serving a subpoena duces tecum. Id at 106.