Statements Made in Private Arbitration are Absolutely Privileged

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Torts - IME Report Statements Privileged from Defamation Action

Yeung v. Maric, __Ariz. Adv. Rptr. __ 1CA-CV 08-0653 (App., Div. I, June 9, 2010)(J. Gemmill)

DOCTOR'S STATEMENTS IN IME REPORT AS PART OF PRIVATE ARBITRATION ARE ABSOLUTELY PRIVILEGED AND CANNOT FORM BASIS OF DEFAMATION OR FALSE LIGHT INVASION OF PRIVACY CLAIM

Dr. Yeung sued Dr. Maric for defamation and false light invasion of privacy when Maric made disparaging comments about Yeung's care and treatment of the claimant in a in an independent medical exam report in a UM/UIM as part of a private arbitration. Maric claimed the private arbitration was a "judicial proceeding" and therefore his statements were absolutely privileged. The trial court granted Maric summary judgment on this basis and the Court of Appeals affirmed.Arizona courts have long held that statements made by witnesses in litigation are absolutely privileged so as to encourage "complete exposure of pertinent information for a tribunal's disposition." This privilege has been extended to "reports, consultations, and advice." So the only question here was whether or not a private arbitration is a "judicial proceeding."Because Arizona favors arbitration as a means of disposing controversies and because private arbitrations of UM/UIM matters require notice, a hearing and other safeguards typically required in judicial proceedings, the absolute privilege shall extend to statements made in such proceedings.

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