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Spectrum Systems International Corp. v. Chemical Bank

581 N.E.2d 1055 (1991)

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Spectrum Systems International Corp. v. Chemical Bank

New York Court of Appeals

581 N.E.2d 1055 (1991)

Facts

Chemical Bank (Chemical) (defendant) retained an outside law firm to investigate possible fraud by its employees and outside vendors, including Spectrum Systems International Corp. (Spectrum) (plaintiff). The law firm interviewed former and current Chemical employees and Spectrum representatives, and in a letter report to Chemical’s vice-chairman/senior legal officer on which general counsel was copied, outlined its findings and opined on the merits of a possible claim against Spectrum. Thereafter, Spectrum sued Chemical to recover fees for consulting services and demanded disclosure of the report. Chemical sought a protective order, claiming that the report was protected by the attorney-client privilege. The supreme court denied Chemical’s motion for a protective order, holding that communicating the results of an independent investigation to an attorney does not make it privileged. The appellate division likewise rejected Chemical’s claim of privilege, reasoning that the report provided business rather than legal advice, did not reach a conclusion, was not focused on impending litigation, and did not contain legal research. The appellate division granted Chemical leave to appeal, certifying the question of whether its order was proper.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Kaye, J.)

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