The Fourth Department, reversing Supreme Court and reinstating the complaint in this dog-bite case, determined an affidavit which should have been disclosed because it contained the statement of a party was admissible in opposition to defendant’s motion for summary judgment (the Davis affidavit). In addition, the affidavit of a non-party witness should have been considered by the court (the Cheetham affidavit). Even if the discovery demands are read to include the non-party affidavit, the affidavit was privileged as material prepared for litigation and therefore not discoverable. Supreme Court had precluded both affidavits on the ground they had not been disclosed:
… [W]e agree with the court that the affidavit of Davis, insofar as it contained a party statement of defendant, should have been disclosed. CPLR 3101 (e) “enables a party to unconditionally obtain a copy of his or her own statement[,] creating an exception to the rule that material prepared for litigation is ordinarily not discoverable” … . We nevertheless agree with plaintiff that the court abused its discretion in precluding Davis’s affidavit from consideration in opposition to the motion … . Defendant knew of Davis as a person of interest, which is why counsel sought to depose her approximately four months prior to making the motion, and defendant did not seek the assistance of the court to compel Davis’s production … . Inasmuch as plaintiff is not precluded from relying on Davis’s affidavit to oppose summary judgment, Davis is not precluded from testifying at trial … .
We also conclude that the court abused its discretion in precluding the Cheetham affidavit from consideration. Cheetham was listed as a witness in discovery and was deposed. Cheetham is not a party to this action, and his affidavit did not include any statements of a party. Even assuming that Cheetham’s statement was discoverable, we note that defendant’s discovery demands did not include a demand for nonparty witness statements. Assuming further that defendant’s discovery demands could be read to include a request for the statement of a nonparty witness, i.e., Cheetham, we conclude that Cheetham’s statement was conditionally privileged as material prepared in anticipation of litigation (see CPLR 3101 [d] [2 …). Defendant would be unable to show any substantial need for Cheetham’s statement inasmuch as Cheetham was deposed and therefore provided the substantial equivalent of the material contained in the statement … . Vikki-lynn A. v Zewin, 2021 NY Slip Op 05412, Fourth Dept 10-8-21