Schlagenhauf v. Holder Case Brief

Why is the case important?

The Petitioner, Schlagenhauf (Petitioner), was one of several named defendants in a negligence lawsuit stemming from a bus and tractor-trailer collision brought by passengers of a Greyhound bus, of which Petitioner was the driver. One of the other defendants, the owner of the trailer, moved to have mental and physical examinations done on Petitioner whose negligence, they claimed, caused the accident.

Facts of the case

Question

Whether application of FRCP Rule 35 to a defendant would be an unconstitutional invasion of his privacy. Whether Rule 35 should be applied to Petitioner, as he was not a party in relation to Contract Carriers and National Lead at the time the examinations were sought. Whether Petitioner’s mental or physical conditions were in controversy and whether Contract Carriers and National Lead made a showing of good cause.

Answer

Vacated and remanded. FRCP Rule 35 applies to defendants as well as plaintiffs. The court found no basis to apply the doctrine in favor of one class of litigants and not the other. FRCP Rule 35 only requires that the person to be examined be a party to the action, not that he be an opposing party of the movant. Petitioner was clearly a party to the action. Contract Carriers and National Lead failed to show that Petitioner’s physical or mental condition were in controversy and that there was good cause for the examinations requested. The only specific allegation made in support of the four examinations was impairment of Petitioner’s eyes and vision. On remand, the District Judge should reconsider this order in light of the guidelines set forth in the decision.

Conclusion

The court held that the tractor-trailer owners failed to make the necessary showing that the bus driver’s physical or mental condition was in question, or that good cause was shown for the examinations, as required by Rule 35.

  • Case Brief: 1964
  • Petitioner: Schlagenhauf
  • Respondent: Holder
  • Decided by: Warren Court

Citation: 379 US 104 (1964)
Argued: Oct 13, 1964
Decided: Nov 23, 1964