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Aerojet-General Corp. v. Transport Indemnity Insurance

18 Cal. App. 4th 996 (1993)

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Aerojet-General Corp. v. Transport Indemnity Insurance

California Court of Appeal

18 Cal. App. 4th 996 (1993)

Facts

Scott DeVries was an attorney with the law firm that represented Aerojet-General Corp. (Aerojet) (plaintiff) in an action brought against Transport Indemnity Insurance and Aerojet’s other insurers (collectively, Transport) (defendants) in connection with an industrial accident at Aerojet’s facility. The litigation was complex and involved a huge volume of documents and numerous parties and law firms. DeVries received a packet of documents concerning the litigation from an Aerojet employee. Included in the packet was a memorandum prepared by an attorney with Bronson, Bronson & McKinnon (Bronson), the law firm representing Transport. The memorandum described an interview with an independent insurance adjustor who had investigated a prior accident at Aerojet’s facility, and it contained the Bronson attorney’s assessment of the adjustor’s witness potential. DeVries contacted the adjustor, spoke to him about the case, and took his deposition. When asked about how he learned of the adjustor, DeVries revealed that the adjustor was identified in a memorandum prepared by a Bronson lawyer. Bronson later discovered that the memorandum had been in a packet of documents that Bronson had sent to its client. Transport moved for sanctions against DeVries’s law firm. The trial court found that the documents were privileged communications between opposing counsel and its client and neither Bronson nor its client had knowledge of or had consented to Aerojet’s possession of the documents. The court sanctioned DeVries’s law firm for DeVries’s failure to timely disclose to Bronson that he had received the documents. The court also precluded the insurance adjustor from testifying at trial. Aerojet appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Haning, J.)

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