Sunday, November 24, 2013

Hickman v. Taylor case brief

Hickman v. Taylor case brief summary
329 U.S. 495 (1947)

Petitioner sought review of a judgment of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, holding that certain information that petitioner requested from respondents was part of the work product of respondents' attorney and was thus privileged from discovery under Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 26.

Respondents, tug boat owners and underwriters, employed a law firm to defend them against potential suits resulting from the sinking of a tug in which their crew members drowned. Respondents' attorney interviewed and took written statements from the survivors with an eye toward litigation. Petitioner filed interrogatories directed to respondents, some of which requested copies of written statements taken from the crew members, detailed reports of oral statements, records, or other memoranda made concerning the tug's sinking. Respondents, through counsel, did not provide the requested materials and were found in contempt of court.

  • The appellate court reversed, describing the materials as privileged work product under Fed. R. Civ. P. 26. On further appeal, the Court found Fed. R. Civ. P. 26 was inapplicable because no depositions were involved with the interrogatories. 
  • However, petitioner's request, made without purported necessity or justification, for materials that were prepared by respondents' attorney in the course of legal representation fell outside of the arena of discovery and contravened public policy.
The Court affirmed the judgment although it found that the rule of civil procedure was inapplicable to the case. Petitioner had not shown the necessity or justification needed to secure the written statements, private memoranda, and personal recollections that were prepared or formed by respondents' counsel in the course of the counsel's legal duties.

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