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Suezaki v. Superior Court of Santa Clara County

Supreme Court of California

July 19, 1962

S. F. No. 20975


 [*169]  [**433]  [***369]    Petitioners Henry Suezaki and Grace Suezaki are plaintiffs, and Stanley L. Crawford and Golden State Leasing Company (the real parties in interest herein) are defendants in an action for personal injuries pending in the respondent court. Defendants' attorney hired an investigator to take motion pictures of plaintiff (Henry) without the latter's knowledge. By the use of interrogatories, answers to which, over defendants' objections, were compelled by the trial court, plaintiffs discovered the existence of the films, that they had been taken by an independent investigator, and delivered [****2]  by him to defendants' attorney. Plaintiffs then filed a motion asking for the production and inspection of the  [*170]  films under the provisions of section 2031 of the Code of Civil Procedure. 1 The motion was supported by a proper affidavit. Defendants opposed the motion. In their supporting affidavit the only opposition stated was that the films had been "communicated to [attorney for defendants] for the confidential use in the preparation of the defense. . . ." The motion was denied, and plaintiffs (as petitioners herein) seek a writ of mandate requiring respondent court to authorize the inspection.

 [****3]  The record makes it abundantly clear that the denial was predicated solely on the belief of the trial court that the film was a privileged communication, and protected from discovery under the provisions of subdivision 2 of section 1881 of the Code of Civil Procedure. 2 This fact appears not only in the memorandum opinion filed by respondent court, but in the trial judge's  [**434]   [***370]  remarks at the time of oral argument on the motion. In other words, although the trial judge impliedly found that the film was within the scope of the examination permitted by subdivision (b) of section 2016, and also that he was satisfied that plaintiffs had made a sufficient showing of good cause for inspection, he was powerless to grant inspection under the rules announced in Holm v. Superior Court, 42 Cal.2d 500 [267 P.2d 1025, 268 P.2d 722], and in Grand Lake Drive In, Inc. v. Superior Court, 179 Cal.App.2d 122 [3 Cal.Rptr. 621]. Those two cases he interpreted as requiring the conclusion that the film was a privileged communication, and therefore not discoverable.

 [****4]  On this petition, plaintiffs contend that they are entitled to inspection as a matter of law. Defendants, on the other hand,  [*171]  contend that the order under review must be sustained because: (a) the facts indicate that there was no abuse of discretion; (b) the attorney-client privilege gives complete protection to the films; and (c) plaintiffs failed to show good cause for inspection. Neither party is entirely correct.

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58 Cal. 2d 166 *; 373 P.2d 432 **; 23 Cal. Rptr. 368 ***; 1962 Cal. LEXIS 250 ****; 95 A.L.R.2d 1073

HENRY SUEZAKI et al., Petitioners, v. THE SUPERIOR COURT OF SANTA CLARA COUNTY, Respondent; STANLEY L. CRAWFORD et al., Real Parties in Interest

Prior History:  [****1]  PROCEEDING in mandamus to compel the Superior Court of Santa Clara County to vacate its order denying a motion for production and inspection of films under Code Civ. Proc., § 2031.

Disposition: Writ granted with directions.


films, discovery, inspection, privileged, confidential, trial court, photograph, work product, transmitted, investigator, good cause, attorney-client, gather, picture, cases, communicate, dominant purpose, subject matter, matter of law, preparation, matters

Civil Procedure, Discovery, Misconduct During Discovery, Motions to Compel, Attorneys, General Overview, Evidence, Privileges, Attorney-Client Privilege, Waiver, Governments, Courts, Court Personnel, Privileged Communications, Discovery & Disclosure, Relevance of Discoverable Information, Work Product Doctrine