Vinson v. Superior Court

43 Cal. 3d 833, 239 Cal. Rptr. 292, 740 P.2d 404 (1987)



Cal Civ. Proc. Code § 2036 defines a showing of good cause as requiring that the party produce specific facts justifying discovery and that the inquiry be relevant to the subject matter of the action or reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. The requirement of a court order following a showing of good cause is doubtless designed to protect an examinee's privacy interest by preventing an examination from becoming an annoying fishing expedition. While a plaintiff may place his mental state in controversy by a general allegation of severe emotional distress, the opposing party may not require him to undergo psychiatric testing solely on the basis of speculation that something of interest may surface.


After plaintiff ex-employee was fired by defendant ex-employer, she filed a complaint against defendant alleging sexual harassment, wrongful discharge, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Defendant filed a motion to compel plaintiff to undergo a medical and psychological examination to test the extent of her injuries and to measure her work abilities. After the trial court granted defendant's motion, plaintiff petitioned the appellate court for a writ of prohibition to direct the trial court to forbid the examination. The appellate court denied plaintiff's petition. On further appeal, the state supreme court reversed the appellate court's decision with directions to issue a peremptory writ of mandate compelling the trial court to limit the scope of the mental examination. 


Was defendant ex-employer’s motion, in a sexual harassment case, to compel plaintiff ex-employee to undergo a medical and psychological examination in violation of her right to privacy?




Mere initiation of a sexual harassment suit, even with the extreme mental and emotional damage being asserted by plaintiff ex-employee, did not act as waiver of all plaintiff ex-employee's privacy rights, exposing her to unfettered mental probing by defendant’s experts. To allow defendant an unfettered examination of plaintiff would violate her rights to privacy.

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