In a FCRA putative class action, a Washington federal court quashed a deposition notice for a defendant–company’s litigation support specialist based in the legal department. The court treated her as the General Counsel’s agent for privilege purposes, and used the Shelton doctrine to preclude her deposition testimony. Broyles v. Convergent Outsourcing, Inc., 2017 WL 2256773 (W.D. Wash. May 23, 2017). You may read the decision here.
What is a Litigation Support Specialist?
I suppose the duties of a Litigation Support Specialist vary from company to company, but likely include general paralegal duties and/or e-discovery duties. In Broyles, Alisia Stephens worked as a Litigation Support Specialist for Convergent Outsourcing, a collection agency, under the direction of Convergent’s General Counsel. Her duties included reviewing complaints, investigating the complaint’s allegations, and engaging in settlement-related communications with plaintiffs’ counsel before retaining outside counsel.
After Plaintiff Broyles filed her complaint, Stephens communicated with Broyles’ counsel regarding a potential settlement. She also submitted a sworn declaration discussing Broyles’ prior bankruptcy filings and stating, simply, that Convergent’s collection inquiries “were permissible under the FCRA.” Ok, if you say so.
The Deposition More…
A significant privilege affray is unfolding over Baylor University’s retention of the Pepper Hamilton law firm to investigate Baylor’s handling of sexual-assault complaints.
The question before the USDC in Waco is whether the attorney–client privilege protects from discovery Pepper Hamilton’s witness interviews and documents reviewed. The court’s upcoming decision may offer important lessons to organizations conducting internal investigations, including how to handle a post-investigation release of information.
You will recall that, following Pepper Hamilton’s investigation, Baylor fired its football coach, Art Briles, and demoted its president, Judge Kenneth Starr. And while Pepper Hamilton prepared a list of “Recommendations,” available here, it did not deliver a formal written report of its investigation. You may read more about the so-called “lack of a paper trail” in this New York Times article.
The plaintiffs in Jane Doe v. Baylor University, No. 6:16-cv-173-RP-JCM (USDC WD Tex.), a Title IX case, filed a motion to compel Baylor to “produce all materials provided to or produced by Pepper Hamilton.” In essence, the plaintiffs seek a ruling that the attorney–client privilege does not protect the law firm’s investigation materials, and assert two arguments in support. More…
In a 2–1 decision, a California appellate court upheld a trial court’s disqualification of a law firm after one of its lawyers decided not to return an adversary’s privileged email and to use it offensively before obtaining a court order allowing him to do so. The court issued the ruling even though the lawyer received the privileged email from his client—not opposing counsel—and it facially appeared that the opposing party had waived the privilege by forwarding to a third-party. McDermott Will & Emery LLP v. Superior Court, 217 Cal. Rptr. 3d 47 (Ct. App. 2017). You may read this lengthy—but instructive—opinion here.
Client Sends Privileged Email to Third-Party
The facts are a bit convoluted, so I’ll try to simplify. Dick Hausman, the 80 year-old son-in-law of Allergan Pharmaceuticals’ founder, was the president of a holding company that managed the family’s investment portfolio. The McDermott firm represented the holding company. Mr. Hausman’s son, Rick Hausman, later became president and “a struggle for control” of the holding company ensued. Dick Hausman retained lawyer Mark Blaskey to represent him in these disagreements. More…