In an unusual opinion, the Second District Court of Appeal ordered Costco Wholesale Corp. to turn over some of its attorney-client communications during discovery in a putative class action alleging misclassification of Costco managers. In Costco Wholesale Corp. v. Superior Court (2008) __ Cal.App.4th __, the Court of Appeal held that the trial court was correct to order Costco to produce portions of a pre-litigation attorney-client memo prepared for Costco by its outside counsel. The memo analyzed whether Costco's department managers qualified for exempt status. Counsel took interviews, reviewed job descriptions, and prepared a detailed and lengthy memo analyzing the status of the managers. The trial court ordered an in-camera review by a referee, who determined that portions of the memorandum regarding the managers’ job duties were not privileged and should be produced.
Costco petitioned for a writ of mandate. After some odd procedural quirks, the Court of Appeal denied the writ, holding that Costco had not shown "irreparable harm” because the portions to be produced came from job descriptions and interviews with two managers; it was “inconsequential; and it did not “infringe on the attorney-client relationship.” The Court found that these were not work product, and that disclosure would cause no harm because the information would be readily available from other sources.
You can download the full text of Costco Wholesale Corp. v. Superior Court here in pdf or word format. A modification order was issued yesterday, which did not change the judgment. We read the whole thing, twice, and we might be incorporating a request for in camera review of much more from the privilege logs than ever before.