Brief Fact Summary.
During discovery, Plaintiff requested copies of Defendant’s attorney’s written statements from interviews with witnesses. Defendant argued the information was privileged attorney work product.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
Privileged attorney work product cannot be requested during discovery without a showing of necessity.
Not even the most liberal of discovery theories can justify unwarranted inquiries into the files and the mental impressions of an attorney.View Full Point of Law
Five crew members died in an accident on the tugboat, J.M. Taylor (Defendant). An attorney was hired by the Defendant to investigate the accident. The attorney interviewed four survivors who later publicly testified about the accident. A representative of one of the victims (Plaintiff) sued Defendant and requested through discovery the attorney’s written statements from the survivors. Defendant’s argued the statements were privileged attorney work product.
Could the written statements, taken in preparation for trial, be requested through discovery without a showing of necessity?
No, the information cannot be requested without proof of necessity. The Court of Appeals is affirmed.
Justice Jackson agreed with the decision of the Court, emphasizing the purpose of discovery as ensuring fairness in access to information, not insight into the other side’s legal strategy. Ruling otherwise would undermine the legal profession.
The Court determined that the Plaintiff did not meet the burden of necessity for requesting the attorney’s written statements. The information could be obtained through separately conducted interviews with the attorney and the witnesses.