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Communications with Opposing Party's Physicians

Adopted: July 21, 1994

Opinion rules that a lawyer may not passively listen while the opposing party's nonparty treating physician comments on his or her treatment of the opposing party unless the opposing party consents.

Inquiry #1:

Attorney A is defense counsel in a personal injury case. When the case is set for trial, Attorney A subpoenas Plaintiff's treating physician ("Doctor") for trial. Doctor then contacts Attorney A to discuss the subpoena. Although Attorney A asks no questions regarding Plaintiff's medical treatment, Doctor begins to discuss Plaintiff's medical condition with Attorney A. May Attorney A passively listen while Doctor discusses Plaintiff's medical treatment, or does Attorney A have an affirmative duty to inform Doctor that he cannot participate in communications regarding the treatment of Plaintiff without Plaintiff's consent other than to arrange for Doctor's appearance at trial as a witness?

Opinion #1:

Attorney A may not participate, either passively or actively, in communications with Plaintiff's nonparty treating physician concerning the physician's treatment of Plaintiff unless Plaintiff consents. To do so is contrary to public policy and, therefore, unethical. See Crist v. Moffatt, 326 N.C. 326, 389 S.E.2d 41 (1990) and RPC 162. Attorney A must inform Doctor that he may not participate in such communications.

Inquiry #2:

After the case has been called for trial and Doctor has been subpoenaed as a witness for the defense, may Attorney A accept medical records in the mail directly from Doctor?

Opinion #2:


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