Hole-in-One Leads to GC’s Deposition. Here’s How.

The Greenbrier Classic, the annual PGA Tour event in West Virginia, operated by Old White Charities, Inc., has a unique fan experience.  Each spectator receives $100 if a Tour player sinks a hole-in-one on the course’s par-3 18th hole, $500 if a second player aces the hole, and $1,000 if a third accomplishes the feat.

During the 2015 tournament, Greg McNeill sank a hole-in-one, providing the spectators with an instant $18,900 in cash.  Later that day, Justin Thomas used his pitching wedge to ace the 137 yard hole, giving the spectators another $173,500!  Alas, there was no third ace, but the spectators left the tournament with a collective payout of $192,400.  Read the ESPN article chronicling the feat here.

Insurance Coverage?

Surely the Classic’s operator, Old White, had insurance for such an unlikely yet expensive accomplishment?  Well, it thought so, but the insurance company denied coverage because the policy contained a hole-length-limitation clause requiring the shot to be at least 150 yards for coverage to apply.  With the PGA’s pin placement that day, the length from tee box to hole was only 137 yards—13 yards shy of the insurance company’s mandate.

No Way!

Old White sued its insurance agency, Bankers Insurance, alleging negligence for failing to procure coverage without a hole-length limitation.  During discovery, Old White moved to compel the deposition of Melvin Tull, Bankers Insurance’s General Counsel.  Bankers, which did not have the opportunity to file a written response, argued that, because Tull is a GC, “there is no way [a deposition] would not violate the attorney–client privilege.”

Yes, Way!

The court ruled that, regardless of the attorney–client privilege, Old White could depose the General Counsel.  The court noted that More…

Does Advice-of-Counsel Defense Waive Privilege for In-House Lawyers?

Aa a general rule, clients waive the attorney–client privilege when they assert an advice-of-counsel defense and, consequently, must produce their lawyer’s advice-related communications.  The waiver’s scope, however, is not as well-known.  Does the waiver apply to communications with outside counsel and in-house lawyers?

The Utah federal court faced this specific question and narrowly construed the scope of waiver.  The court held that a client’s advice-of-counsel defense waived the privilege over its communications with outside counsel, but that the waiver did not extend to its communications with in-house counsel.  Hoopes v. Owners Ins. Co., 2018 WL 1183374 (D. Utah Mar. 6, 2018).  You may read the decision here.

Bad-Faith Claim

A Geico insured struck an 11-year-old pedestrian on Main Street in Heber City, causing severe injuries to the minor. Geico paid its insurance limits, but the minor’s mother filed breach-of-contract and bad-faith claims against her uninsured-motorist carrier when it failed to promptly settle that matter.

The UIM carrier had retained outside counsel to investigate and opine on coverage and payment issues.  The carrier asserted the advice-of-counsel defense and agreed that the defense waived the privilege over its communications with outside counsel.  The carrier, however, refused to produce communications between its claims adjuster and in-house lawyer.

Sword and Shield

The mother moved to compel the claims-adjuster–in-house lawyer communications, essentially arguing that waiver is a broad concept and must include all advice-related communications, including those with in-house counsel. More…

Mardi Gras is Over: NOLA Court Rejects Privilege for GC’s Post-Accident Form

Mardi Gras ended early for one New Orleans agency.  Just days before Fat Tuesday, the USDC for EDLA ruled that the attorney–client privilege did not protect a public entity’s “Executive Summary” of a post-accident review.  The Court issued the ruling even though the entity’s GC created the Executive Summary form and the summary contained information to put the GC “on notice of a potential lawsuit and so that [she could] assess legal liability.”  O’Malley v. Public Belt RR Comm’n for the City of New Orleans, 2018 WL 814190 (ED LA Feb. 9, 2018).  You may read the decision here.

I [Can’t] Hear that Train a Comin’

Unlike the Folsom Prison inmate, Bryan O’Malley could not hear a moving locomotive and suffered injuries when it struck him while he was working for NOLA’s Public Belt Railroad Commission.  The Commission conducted a post-incident meeting and created an Executive Summary that included sections discussing the incident’s “primary cause” and “contributing cause.”

In a subsequent lawsuit, the Commission produced the Executive Summary with the “cause” sections redacted. O’Malley wanted an unredacted version, and moved to compel it.

A Good Deposition

O’Malley’s lawyer deposed the Commission’s Safety Manager, and gained valuable admissions.  Under direct questioning, the Manager effectively testified that the Commission managers’ “general procedure” is to meet after every accident and prepare an Executive Summary.  The Safety Manager never testified that the managers prepared the Summary so that lawyers can render legal advice to the Commission.  You may read the Manager’s testimony here.

GC Saves the Day?

Perhaps sensing trouble, the Commission’s General Counsel submitted a declaration stating that she prepared the Executive Summary form after becoming GC in 2014.  More…