PHILADELPHIA (CN) – The Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled that a private investigation firm should not be forced to turn over confidential documents requested by the widow of a man killed after he was tracked down by investigators.
Stanford Douglas Jr. hired A-Plus Investigations to find William Berkeyheiser. In March 2005 Douglas went to Berkeyheiser’s home and shot and killed him. The victim’s widow, Viola, filed 21 subpoenas, four document requests and three sets of interrogatories in a quest to uncover details about the investigation.
A-Plus said the subpoenas were overly broad and requested irrelevant information, such as corporate financial records, phone records and insurance claims from the past five years. A-Plus argued that some of the requested documents included the confidential information of current and former clients. Its lawyer concluded that Viola sought the information “merely to harass A-Plus.”
The court ruled that the orders to turn over the information were immediately appealable pursuant to the collateral order doctrine.
“The court should not permit appellee’s requests, if they represent a mere ‘fishing expedition’ or an obvious attempt to force A-Plus into a settlement,” Judge Gantman wrote. The appeals court vacated and remanded with instructions for the trial court to explain its rulings on each of the discovery requests it granted. See ruling.