Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Koch Foods of Alabama, LLC v. General Electric Capital Corp. case brief

Koch Foods of Alabama, LLC v. General Electric Capital Corp. case brief summary
531 F. Supp. 2d 1318 (M.D. Ala. 2008)

Plaintiff equipment owner filed suit against defendant, a capital corporation. During discovery, the owner inadvertently disclosed a privileged document. A magistrate judge granted the owner's motion for a protective order, and the corporation filed objections.

The parties did not dispute that the document, which consisted of one page of a three-page e-mail between the owner's attorney and its chief operating officer, was privileged. At issue was the proper standard for determining whether inadvertent waiver of attorney-client privilege had occurred.


  • The court reviewed Alabama law, including Ala. R. Evid. 501 and case law, but did not find a clear answer as to which of three possible standards would be applied by the Alabama Supreme Court. 
  • The court opined that the Alabama Supreme Court, as the magistrate did, would use the balancing-test approach that considered the totality of the circumstances surrounding the disclosure, rather than applying a per se waiver rule. 
  • The court then concluded that the owner had not waived the attorney-client privilege when the owner's attorney inadvertently, during the production of 3,758 pages of documents, included one page of a three-page e-mail, as the owner took precautions to prevent inadvertent disclosure where the document was specifically listed on the owner's privilege log, and counsel previewed the box of documents but simply overlooked the e-mail page, which was tucked inside another document.

The court overruled the corporation's objections and held that the magistrate's decision was proper.

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