Monday, April 6, 2015

Cunney v. Patrick Communications LLC (Maryland U.S.D.C.)

Filed: April 3, 2015

Opinion by: James K. Bredar

Holding:  Confidential communications between a husband and wife are privileged, regardless of whether the subject matter relates solely to ordinary business matters.

Facts:  Defendant managing members of defendant LLC were also husband and wife.  In connection with discovery, husband and wife asserted marital privilege to bar production of 58 documents involving communications between husband and wife.

Analysis:  Plaintiff argued the documents should be produced in discovery because the communications related to pure business matters unrelated to the spousal relationship.  Plaintiff’s argument relied on a comparison to New York law, which has statutory text similar to Maryland.  The court agreed New York law excludes from the martial privilege conversations related solely to “ordinary business matters.”  However, the court looked to the Maryland Court of Appeals decision in Coleman v. State, which “refused to read exceptions into the marital privilege where the text [(Section 9-105 of the Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article)] itself had ‘no express exceptions.’”  The court found the communications between the husband and wife privileged. 

The court went on to state that the parties must still determine whether the communications were confidential because the privilege does not apply if the communications were “made with the contemplation or expectation that a third party would learn” of the communications.

The opinion is available in PDF.

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