Wartell v. Purdue University

Case No. 1:13-CV-99 RLM-APR (2014)

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Wartell v. Purdue University

United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana
Case No. 1:13-CV-99 RLM-APR (2014)

Facts

Michael Wartell (plaintiff) was the chancellor of Indiana University–Purdue University Fort Wayne. Wartell filed an internal complaint against Purdue University’s (defendant’s) president, France Córdova, alleging that Córdova had harassed and discriminated against Wartell based on Wartell’s sex and age. Purdue’s board of trustees proposed retaining an independent investigator to investigate Wartell’s claims. Purdue’s vice-president proposed the independent-investigator arrangement to Wartell and Córdova, and they both agreed. Purdue then engaged lawyer John Trimble to investigate the dispute. As part of Trimble’s investigation, he interviewed Córdova, Wartell, and 12 other people. During Trimble’s interview with Wartell, Trimble did not tell Wartell that he was acting as Purdue’s lawyer. Trimble prepared a report regarding his investigation, which he submitted to a panel of three Purdue trustees who were responsible for issuing a binding decision on Wartell’s complaint. Trimble’s report was not labeled as privileged or as an attorney-client communication. The panel found based on Trimble’s report that there had been no discrimination. Wartell subsequently sued Purdue in federal district court in Indiana, alleging claims including sex discrimination and breach of contract. Wartell requested production of Trimble’s report and documents associated with the report, but Purdue asserted the attorney-client privilege and refused to produce the materials. Wartell moved to compel production. A federal magistrate judge ruled that the attorney-client privilege did not apply because Trimble’s work for the university did not involve giving legal advice. The magistrate judge granted Wartell’s motion to compel, and Purdue objected to the magistrate judge’s order in the district court.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Miller, J.)

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