Court Orders Production of Work Product Emails in Product Liability Action
In State Farm Fire and Casualty Company as Subrogree and Assignee of Martha L. Dean v. Johnson Controls, Inc. et. al., Case No. 15-02559 (W.D. Tenn., July 15, 2016), Plaintiff, an insurance carrier, sued car battery manufacturer Defendants regarding a vehicle fire that damaged subrogee and assign Ms. Dean’s vehicle. Ms. Dean notified Sears, who sold the car battery; Sears then sought indemnity from Plaintiff. Accordingly, Plaintiff sued Defendants to determine its liability on the claim. During the case, Plaintiff propounded interrogatories and requests for production of documents; ultimately Plaintiff filed a motion to compel responses to certain interrogatories and certain document requests.
After a telephonic hearing, the court ordered Defendants to provide information and documents regarding related types of lawsuits and claims within the 10 years before the incident in this case. Plaintiff also sought production of 11 email threads, which Defendants had marked as privileged and had listed in their privilege log. The emails related to discussions between counsel for the parties regarding preservation of the vehicle and the car battery for inspection. Defendants’ counsel submitted in a letter that destruction of the vehicle or battery would be considered spoliation.
The alleged work product emails were produced for in camera review. The court found that certain emails fell within the work product privilege and did not have to be produced, as they were internal investigations and related correspondence. But the court found that not all emails were protected by the attorney client privilege and ordered that Defendants produce seven of the eleven emails between the parties’ counsel.