Does the Privilege Still Apply if Non-Clients Were In The Room During the Conversation Between Counsel and Client?

Gregory Joseph’sComplex Litigation Blog brought my attention to  this important decision.  Quagliarello v. Dewees, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 78870 (E.D. Pa. July 20, 2011) is a § 1983 action against a police officer but addresses a situation that plaintiff’s lawyers address everyday when a potential client shows up with a bunch of friends and family members.  Here is Gregory’s post:

Defendants argue that Plaintiff waived the attorney-client privilege because she consulted with Murphy in the presence of third parties, i.e. her parents and Gorbey [a neighbor and employee of defense counsel who referred the plaintiff to her lawyer]. Westinghouse Elec. Corp. v. Republic of Philippines, 951 F.2d 1414, 1424 (3d Cir. 1991) (citing United States v. AT&T, 642 F.2d 1285, 1299 (D.C. Cir. 1980)) ("voluntary disclosure to a third party of purportedly privileged communications has long been considered inconsistent with an assertion of the privilege").

 

 

 

 

 

The Court finds that Plaintiff did not waive the privilege as to discussions where Donna Gorbey and Plaintiff’s parents were present. In Kevlik v. Goldstein, 724 F.2d 844 (1st Cir. 1984), the First Circuit held that the presence of a client’s father at the meeting with his attorney did not waive the attorney-client privilege where the client intended that his communications with the attorney were confidential. Id. at 849. Furthermore, "[t]he presence of a third party will not vitiate the attorney-client privilege if the third party is the attorney’s or client’s agent or possesses a commonality of interest with the client." In re Grand Jury Investigation, 918 F.2d 374, 386 n.19 (3d Cir. 1990) (citing 8 Wigmore at § 2311); see also Miller v. Haulmark Transport Sys., 104 F.R.D. 442, 445 (E.D. Pa. 1984) (Huyett, J.) ("[T]he privilege is not destroyed when a person other than the lawyer is present at a conversation between an attorney and his or her client if that person is needed to make the conference possible or to assist the attorney in providing legal services.").

Here, Plaintiff’s neighbor and parents facilitated Plaintiff’s obtaining legal counsel on the day of her arrest. There is no evidence that Plaintiff intended to waive the attorney-client privilege in her communications with Murphy.Therefore, the Court grants Plaintiff’s motion in limine.