Costco Wholesale Corp. v. Superior Court

47 Cal. 4th 725, 101 Cal. Rptr. 3d 758, 219 P.3d 736 (2009)

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Costco Wholesale Corp. v. Superior Court

California Supreme Court
47 Cal. 4th 725, 101 Cal. Rptr. 3d 758, 219 P.3d 736 (2009)

Facts

Costco employees (employees) (plaintiffs) filed a class-action lawsuit against Costco Wholesale Corporation (Costco) (defendant) that alleged that from 1999 through 2001 Costco had misclassified some of its managers as “exempt” employees and consequently failed to pay them overtime wages they were due as nonexempt employees. The employees sought to compel discovery of an opinion letter from outside counsel, an expert in wage and hour law, that was drafted after the expert met with two Costco managers. Costco objected, claiming attorney-client privilege and work product, and argued that the expert, the managers, and Costco understood that the conversation and letter would remain confidential. Over Costco’s objection, the trial court ordered a discovery referee to conduct an in-camera review of the letter. The referee produced a heavily redacted version of the letter, noting that much of the letter constituted attorney-client privileged or protected work-product matter. The referee also concluded that the managers’ statements were not privileged and did not become privileged by being incorporated into the expert’s opinion letter. The trial court adopted the referee’s findings and ordered Costco to produce the redacted letter to the employees. The court of appeal declined to grant Costco’s petition for a writ of mandate, and Costco appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Werdegar, J.)

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