Navigating Privacy Rights in Personal Injury Law: Part 1 : The Monica W. v. Milevoi Case


The landmark case of Monica W. v. Milevoi (94 N.Y. 2d 740, 731 N.E.2d 456, 709 N.Y.S.2d 21) stands as a cornerstone in the realm of personal injury and lead poisoning litigation in New York State. Decided on February 18, 1999, by the Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Division, First Department, this case is a pivotal reference for clients and attorneys alike, particularly in understanding the privacy rights of non-party family members in sensitive legal contexts.

Case Overview

Initiated by Quintina W. for her infant daughters, Monica W. v. Milevoi addresses the serious consequences of lead-based paint exposure in properties managed by Maro Milevoi and others. This exposure, leading to significant health issues for the children, formed the crux of their lead poisoning lawsuit.

The Court’s Decision and Its Implications

At the heart of this litigation was the defense’s request for the academic and developmental records of the twins’ non-party siblings. The defense deemed these records relevant, but the plaintiffs viewed this as an invasion of privacy.

In a significant ruling, the court upheld the privacy rights of non-party individuals, setting a precedent in New York personal injury law. This decision carries profound implications:

  • For Clients: It reassures families involved in personal injury lawsuits that their privacy, especially in cases involving children, will be respected.
  • For Attorneys: The case establishes a crucial precedent in New York’s legal landscape, highlighting the need to balance comprehensive discovery with privacy rights.

Key Takeaways

  • Privacy and Legal Proceedings: This case underscores the importance of protecting non-party privacy, particularly in sensitive cases like lead poisoning.
  • Discovery Boundaries: It sets guidelines for discovery in personal injury litigation, cautioning against unwarranted intrusion into private lives.
  • Strategic Litigation Approach: It reminds attorneys of the need for a strategic approach in discovery, respecting privacy while pursuing necessary information.


The Monica W. v. Maro Milevoi decision is a guiding light on privacy rights and discovery limits in personal injury law. It emphasizes the delicate balance between justice and privacy protection, a crucial understanding for clients and legal practitioners navigating similar legal challenges.

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