On February 7, 1943, the tugboat "J.M. Taylor" (defendant) sank while helping to tow a car float belonging to the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. Five crew members died in the accident. J.M. Taylor’s owners and underwriters of the company hired attorneys to prepare defenses against potential suits of the deceased and to seek damages against Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. Fortenbaugh, one of the hired attorneys, privately interviewed four survivors of the accident after each had testified in a public hearing about the incident. Fortenbaugh interviewed other witnesses and memorialized his findings. Of the five estates of the deceased, only one estate, Hickman (plaintiff), filed suit in federal court against the tugboat owners and the railroad company under the Jones Act. In preparing a defense, opposing counsel asked for exact copies of all written statements and summaries of all information taken orally. Fortenbaugh declined on the basis of privilege taken in the course of preparing for litigation. The district court ordered him to comply. Taylor appealed.