Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Judge Mazzoni of Lackawanna County Addresses Privilege Against Self-Incrimination At Depositions

In his recent Opinion in the case of Hilburn v. Jones, 2012-CV-6401 (C.P. Lacka. Co. Aug. 4, 2014 Mazzoni, J.), Judge Robert A. Mazzoni reversed a decision by the Lackawanna County Special Trial Master regarding the issue of whether or not a deponent had the right to assert the privilege against self-incrimination at a deposition.  
 
According to the Opinion, the case involved personal injury claims arising out of a fall by the Plaintiff on the Defendant’s premises.
 
The Defendant wished to depose the Plaintiff’s “ex-husband” regarding calls that the ex-husband allegedly made to the insurance company after the accident, in which he stated that the Plaintiff actually fell at her own home.
 

Judge Robert A. Mazzoni
Lackawanna County
At the deposition of the Plaintiff’s ex-husband, the deponent appeared with counsel and refused to answer any questions, asserting a privilege against self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment of the Pennsylvania Constitution.  
 
The Defendant presented a Motion to Compel to the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas Special Discovery Master, which was denied.  

On appeal, Judge Mazzoni found that the deponent did not have a valid and reasonable basis for the exercise of the privilege against self-incrimination.    Accordingly, the court ruled that the Defendants were entitled to conduct another deposition to inquire as to the circumstances surrounding the deponent’s alleged statements, his knowledge of the Plaintiff’s alleged fall, her alleged injuries, and any other related matters.  

To view this Opinion online, click HERE

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