Hernandez v. Superior Court (2003) 112 Cal. App. 4th 285, 4 Cal. Rptr. 3d 883.
Jose Hernandez was a client of the Metzger Law Group who inhaled toxic dusts at work daily. The dusts scarred his lungs, causing him to develop interstitial lung disease. On behalf of Mr. Hernandez, the Metzger Law Group sued about 80 companies whose products contained the inorganic chemicals that were found at extremely high concentrations in Mr. Hernandez’ lungs. Mr. Hernandez was able to satisfy the pleading requirements established by the California Supreme Court in the Bockrath case to plead medical causation, but the defendants argued that Mr. Hernandez should have to prove a “prima facie” case of medical causation before being allowed to conduct discovery and to proceed with his case. The trial judge agreed with the defendants and stayed all discovery by Mr. Hernandez until he provided such proof. The Metzger Law Group filed a petition for writ of mandate to overturn these orders. The Court of Appeal granted the writ, holding that trial courts may not require a toxic tort plaintiff to prove his case to the satisfaction of the court prior to completion of discovery, because such proof can only be made with the testimony of consulting medical experts, whose opinions are privileged from disclosure under the attorney work product doctrine until they are designated as expert trial witnesses and actually deposed. This case established that toxic tort plaintiffs cannot be treated differently from other plaintiffs who are entitled to obtain discovery and evidence to prove their case, and that trial courts cannot deprive toxic tort plaintiffs of such rights merely because their cases involve complex medical/scientific issues and may be brought against many defendants.