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In Camera Review by a Judge in a Medical Malpractice Case

There will be instances during civil litigations such as medical malpractice, wrongful death, and accident matters, where one of the parties to the case will have certain documents or evidence that they believe should be coming into evidence, or should not be coming into evidence at the time of the trial. When this happens, the concerned side will ask the judge to review the particular piece of evidence in camera or in private.

The purpose of viewing the evidence in private is so that the judge can decide whether he wants to keep the particular thing in evidence or he wants to rule it out. The judge will have to take in whatever information is there, look at it, review it privately and then come to a conclusion, and render a decision whether the particular evidence is admissible at trail or not.

What is in Camera Review?

Therefore, in camera review means the judge is being asked to review some document or evidence privately, without showing it to the other side first. After reviewing, the judge will decide whether or not this material has to be exchanged with the other party of the case, and whether or not the evidence can be used at the time of trial. In camera review, will be called for when there is a dispute and one side does not want to release the evidence, or the other side is trying to get the material into evidence.

Ordinarily in any case both parties have to submit evidence that can be reviewed by the other party. However, one of the parties to the case could demand disclosure of something that the other party is unwilling to exchange or disclose. Usually in camera review is requested by the lawyer who does not want the information to come out, or is trying to get the material into evidence before the other lawyer views it.

In Camera Review in Medical Malpractice Case

Here is an example, where in camera review could be requested in a medical malpractice case. Suppose the patient has suffered injuries due to the doctor's negligence during a certain procedure. The doctor is in the habit of writing notes, and writes about what happened during the procedure; however, these notes are not included in the hospital records.

When the lawsuit is initiated, the doctor uses these notes during deposition to answer questions. As a rule when any party to the case has documented something relating to the events of the case, then the concerned attorney has to give these notes to the other party for review.

The Judge's Call

In this example, the doctor does not want to reveal these notes saying that they are personal notes prepared for the sake of the deposition. When the plaintiff's lawyer asks to receive a copy of these notes, the defense lawyer objects and does not turn them over. In such a situation, the plaintiff's lawyer can ask for the court's intervention into compelling the doctor to turn over the notes. In most instances, the judge will ask for the notes, review them privately, and make a decision whether they should be taken into evidence or not.

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