Court Rules Internal Investigation Reports Prepared by an Outside Counsel are Subject to Work Product Protections

In the recent case of Lassiter v. Hidalgo Medical Services, a former employee of the medical service provider aimed to compel the company to produce reports from an outside counsel, in addition to findings of an internal investigation into workplace harassment claims. The court denied this discovery demand, finding that the documents were protected by work product privilege.

Background of the case

The documents in question contained “factual summaries of the information [the employee] learned in the course of her investigations.” The court stated the documents must be protected because they had been “prepared by a representative of the defendant in anticipation of litigation,” and because the plaintiff was unable to demonstrate that there was a “substantial need for the materials and an inability to obtain their equivalent through other means absent undue hardship.”

In addition, the defendant declined to waive the work-product privilege, because it denied a reliance on the investigation as being a defense in the matter.

This decision reinforces some of the protections available in work product privilege cases, but still does not provide unlimited protection of investigations that are conducted by third-party counsels. There are some circumstances in which a person can establish a substantial need for the report, allowing them to prove the information could not be obtained in any other manner. When such instances occur, disclosure will likely be ordered by the court. This case simply did not meet that standard, and as such, the work-product privilege protections still applied.

For more information and guidance related to work-product cases, contact an experienced Dallas attorney at Kardell Law Group.