California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI)

215. Exercise of a Communication Privilege

[Name of party/witness] has an absolute right not to disclose what [he/ she] told [his/her] [doctor/attorney/[other]] in confidence because the law considers this information privileged. Do not consider, for any reason at all, the fact that [name of party/witness] did not disclose what [he/she] told [his/her] [doctor/attorney/[other]]. Do not discuss that fact during your deliberations or let it influence your decision in any way.

New September 2003; Revised December 2012

Directions for Use

This instruction must be given upon request, if appropriate and the court has determined that the privilege has not been waived. (Evid. Code, § 913(b).)

Sources and Authority

  • Evidence Code section 913(b), provides: “The court, at the request of a party who may be adversely affected because an unfavorable inference may be drawn by the jury because a privilege has been exercised, shall instruct the jury that no presumption arises because of the exercise of the privilege and that the jury may not draw any inference therefrom as to the credibility of the witness or as to any matter at issue in the proceeding.”
  • The comment to Evidence Code section 913 notes that this statute “may modify existing California law as it applies in civil cases.” Specifically, the comment notes that section 913 in effect overrules two Supreme Court cases: Nelson v. Southern Pacific Co. (1937) 8 Cal.2d 648 [67 P.2d 682] and Fross v. Wotton (1935) 3 Cal.2d 384 [44 P.2d 350]. The Nelson court had held that evidence of a person’s exercise of the privilege against self-incrimination in a prior proceeding may be shown for impeachment purposes if he or she testifies in a self-exculpatory manner in a subsequent proceeding. Language in Fross indicated that unfavorable inferences may be drawn in a civil case from a party’s claim of the privilege against self-incrimination during the case itself.

Secondary Sources

2 Witkin, California Evidence (4th ed. 2000) Witnesses, §§ 95–97

7 Witkin, California Procedure (5th ed. 2008) Trial, § 299

Jefferson, California Evidence Benchbook (3d ed. 1997) §§ 35.26–35.27

Cotchett, California Courtroom Evidence, § 18.09 (Matthew Bender)

3 California Trial Guide, Unit 51, Privileges, §§ 51.01–51.32 (Matthew Bender)

Matthew Bender Practice Guide: California Civil Discovery, Ch. 2, Scope of Discovery, 2.09–2.24