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Valley Bank of Nev. v. Superior Court

Supreme Court of California

December 9, 1975

S. F. No. 23313

Case Summary

Procedural Posture

Petitioner bank filed a petition for a writ of mandate to compel respondent, the Superior Court of San Joaquin County (California), to make a protective order allowing petitioner to withhold from discovery information related to confidential transactions of its customers who were not parties to petitioner's action against real party in interest debtors.

Overview

Petitioner bank filed an action against real party in interest debtors to recover a balance allegedly due on a promissory note. Debtors sought confidential information about transactions other bank customers had made in order to support its defense that petitioner had misrepresented the availability of additional financing to debtors in order to induce debtors to borrow money that it intended to use to assist other bank customers. Petitioner sought a protective order pursuant to Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 2019(b)(1), which respondent trial court denied. Petitioner sought a writ of mandate to compel respondent to make an appropriate protective order. The court issued the writ of mandate, finding that while the requested information was relevant, the court was required to indulge in a careful balancing of the right of civil litigants to discovery and the privacy rights of bank customers. Because no statute protected bank customers, the court found that respondent had the discretion to fashion an appropriate order that would, as far as possible, accommodate considerations of both disclosure and confidentiality.

Outcome

The court granted petitioner bank's request for a writ of mandate. The court directed respondent trial court to vacate its order granting discovery to real party in interest debtors and to conduct further proceedings to accommodate both disclosure and confidentiality of the customer information.

LexisNexis® Headnotes

 

 

Civil Procedure > ... > Discovery > Privileged Communications > General Overview

Civil Procedure > Discovery & Disclosure > General Overview

Civil Procedure > Discovery & Disclosure > Discovery > Relevance of Discoverable Information

HN1  Discovery, Privileged Communications

Under the discovery statutes, information is discoverable if it is unprivileged and is either relevant to the subject matter of the action or reasonably calculated to reveal admissible evidence. See Cal. Civ. Proc. Code §§2016(b), 2031. The relevance of the subject matter standard must be reasonably applied; in accordance with the liberal policies underlying the discovery procedures, doubts as to relevance should generally be resolved in favor of permitting discovery.

 

Evidence > Privileges > Doctor-Patient Privilege > Scope

Healthcare Law > Business Administration & Organization > General Overview

Civil Procedure > ... > Discovery > Privileged Communications > General Overview

Evidence > Privileges > General Overview

Evidence > Privileges > Attorney-Client Privilege > General Overview

Evidence > Privileges > Attorney-Client Privilege > Scope

Evidence > Privileges > Doctor-Patient Privilege > General Overview

HN2  Privileges, Doctor-Patient Privilege

There exists no common law privilege with respect to bank customer information. The privileges contained in the Evidence Code are exclusive and the courts are not free to create new privileges as a matter of judicial policy. Cal. Evid. Code §911(b).

 

Banking Law > Consumer Protection > Right to Financial Privacy > General Overview

Constitutional Law > Substantive Due Process > Privacy > Personal Information

Criminal Law & Procedure > Search & Seizure > Expectation of Privacy

Constitutional Law > Substantive Due Process > Privacy > General Overview

HN3  Consumer Protection, Right to Financial Privacy

Cal. Const. art. I, § 1 elevated the right of privacy to an "inalienable right" expressly protected by force of constitutional mandate. The right of privacy extends to one's confidential financial affairs as well as to the details of one's personal life. There is a "reasonable expectation of privacy" which a bank customer entertains with respect to financial information disclosed to his bank.

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15 Cal. 3d 652 ; 542 P.2d 977 ; 125 Cal. Rptr. 553 ; 1975 Cal. LEXIS 260 

VALLEY BANK OF NEVADA, Petitioner, v. THE SUPERIOR COURT OF SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY, Respondent; JOSEPH A. BARKETT et al., Real Parties in Interest

Disposition:  [1]  Let a writ of mandate issue directing the trial court to vacate its order granting discovery herein and to conduct further proceedings consistent with this opinion.