Protecting Privileged Information

Current legal writing frequently addresses the obligation to preserve and disclose information in lawsuits, but in a recent Illinois Supreme Court opinion, Brunton v. Krueger, attorney Matthew Tibble persuaded the Illinois Supreme Court to not only reaffirm the accountant privilege from disclosing client information, but to expand it.  Unfortunately, since the client disclosed  some of the privileged information to one of the parties before retaining attorney Tibble, the accountant waived the privilege to what it had already disclosed.

Since the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination in a criminal matter does not apply in civil lawsuits, the law recognizes certain privileges from disclosing confidential information.  The privileges recognized by Illinois statutory and common law arise from special relationships that justify protecting information from disclosure in lawsuits, generally to enable parties to freely disclose and discuss confidential information in order to obtain appropriate advice without fear that it will later be disclosed in litigation or otherwise.  The recognized privileges include:  attorney/client, patient/physician, penitent/confessor, husband/wife and accountant/client.  These privileges generally protect confidential documents and information from disclosure during the party’s life, and sometimes even after.  But, a privilege can be waived by the party holding it through an intentional waiver or careless conduct.

If you are involved or may be involved in litigation, before discussing or disclosing what your doctor, lawyer, accountant or other professional advisor may have told you or what you may have discussed with them, you should consider whether or not that disclosure would constitute a waiver of some privilege that would otherwise protect your confidentiality.  Retaining counsel is always important in those situations, whether you are the professional who received the information or the client to who disclosed it.

The lawyers at Brooks, Tarulis & Tibble, LLC have addressed numerous privilege issues on behalf of both professionals and their clients, and can assist you with any questions you have in this regard.  If we can assist you, please contact us.

Douglas C Tibble
dtibble@napervillelaw.com

This Brief is designed to provide our friends and clients with information regarding the various subject matters covered it is not designed to take place of legal, accounting or other professional advice.  If expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. This memorandum may constitute advertising under the rules regulating Illinois attorneys.