California Supreme Court Ruling Reaffirms Sacredness of Attorney-Client Communications in Refusing to Allow Disclosure of Opinion Letter

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In Costco Wholesale Corporation v. Superior Court, Costco had retained a law firm to provide it with legal advice regarding whether certain Costco warehouse managers in California were exempt from California’s wage and overtime laws. As part of the analysis, Costco’s attorney interviewed two warehouse managers. Afterward, the attorney generated an opinion letter.

Several years later, plaintiffs filed an action claiming that Costco had misclassified some of its managers as exempt employees, and thus did not pay them overtime to which they were otherwise entitled. In the course of discovery, plaintiffs sought to obtain a copy of the attorney’s opinion letter. Costco resisted producing the letter on the basis that it was a privileged attorney-client communication. The plaintiffs disagreed, contending that the letter was not privileged because it contained non-privileged factual information regarding the managers’ job duties that had been obtained during the course of the attorney’s interview of the managers.

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