North Carolina Business Litigation Report

The Business Court Says That Disclosing Privileged Documents Was "Just Not Smart"

If you have privileged documents, you shouldn't share them with your wife and daughter.  You should also be careful with technology, which lets you do "dumb things".  Those are the lessons of Judge Tennille's very short opinion last week in Crockett Capital Corp. v. Inland American Winston Hotels, Inc.

An executive of the Defendant had sent his wife and daughter emails which included attorney-client communications.  The reason for sending the emails to his wife was to "vent frustration" about work-related matters.  The daughter was apparently asked for grammatical advice.

The Plaintiff said that the privilege had been waived by this intentional production.  Judge Tennille determined that the privilege had not been waived, emphasizing that his decision was based on the specific circumstances before him.  Here's what he said:

Technology multiplies the opportunities for man to do dumb things and increases the speed at which he can do them.

Venting one’s frustrations about work to a spouse is an everyday occurrence.  Attaching a string of emails containing attorney client information to an email to a person’s spouse venting one’s frustration at work is just not smart. The Court does not believe it constitutes a waiver of the attorney client privilege under these circumstances.

Using a child as a grammarian with the result that attorney client privileged information is included in emails to her is just not smart. The Court does not believe it constitutes a waiver of the attorney client privilege under these circumstances.

There isn't much discussion in the opinion, so if you are looking for some law on the issue of privilege waiver, you might want to look at the briefs.  The principal brief was filed under seal, but the brief on why privilege hadn't been waived and the reply brief in support of the waiver argument are available.

I don't think Bart Simpson would carelessly share privileged documents.  Homer?  Probably.

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Mack Sperling
Brooks Pierce, LLP
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