Can an Insurance Claim File Be Attorney-Client Privileged?

An insurance claim file can be attorney-client privileged. The attorney-client privilege is a legal principle that protects communications between attorneys and their clients from being disclosed in court. The insurance claim file is sometimes considered to be part of the attorney-client relationship if it contains confidential information about the case. The following case gives us more information:

Writ of Mandamus: an order from a court for a governmental entity to conform to their legal obligations

Humphreys v. Caldwell, 888 S.W.2d 469, 470 (Tex. 1994)

Facts & Procedural History: Discovery

Jill Mullinax and Charlotte Farley had an automobile accident in 1991. Mullinax had State Farm insurance and was represented by Danny Humphreys and Harlan Holiner, both of whom served as claim adjusters. Farley sued Mullinax, and the case was settled prior to trial. At the same time, while this suit was pending, Farley filed another suit alleging that State Farm Humphreys, and Holiner engaged in bad faith and unfair settlement practices under Article 21.21 of the Texas Insurance Code. In response, State Farm filed a motion for summary judgment (arguing she lacked standing), which was denied.

Regarding this second case, during the discovery period, Farley asked State Farm to produce documents that State Farm declared to be privileged. These documents included the file on the car accident, information on similar claims over a five year period, and Humphreys and Holiner’s personnel files. Farley filed a motion to compel the documents, which State Farm responded to with affidavits with grounds for the exclusion of the documents. After several hearings, the trial court ordered State Farm to produce the claims file, the personnel files, and information about similar claims over the last three years.

The Supreme Court held that (1) State Farm’s affidavits were insufficient, and (2) The trial court abused its discretion in instructing the delivery of the entire claims file (the contents are attorney work product), and that an appeal by State Farm would not sufficiently remedy the situation. The Supreme Court granted State Farm’s motion for leave to file and granted the writ of mandamus conditionally, stating that the writ was only to be issued if the trial court failed to discard its claims file order/didn’t review whether work product privilege needed to be honored.

Main Considerations

What must an insurance company seeking to exclude documents based on immunity or confidentiality do?

They must specifically plead immunity and provide evidence, such as affidavits or live testimony, that supports the claim. An affidavit which does not positively and unqualifiedly represent the facts as disclosed in the affidavit to be true and within the affiant’s personal knowledge is legally insufficient.

Why might the documents in the insurance broker claim file be subject to attorney work product privilege?

They likely contained the attorney’s mental processes, conclusions or legal theories related to their pretrial preparation.

The Takeaway

Humphreys v. Caldwell shows that evidence conveying information that likely involves attorney-client privilege is subjected to higher scrutiny, and that the exclusion of such evidence requires sufficient support.

Do you Need to Hire an Experienced Probate Attorney in Austin?

Do you need help with a probate matter in Austin-metro area or the surrounding communities? We are experienced probate attorneys who represent clients with sensitive probate matters. If so, please give us a call us at 512-982-9293 or use the contact form on the right to see how we can help. –>

Free Judges desk with gavel and scales Stock Photo

Are communications between insurer and insured privileged?

In the world of insurance, there is a lot of back and forth between insurer and insured. But what happens when that communication is privileged? Can an insurance claim file be attorney-client privileged? When an insurance claim involves an attorney, that claim may be considered privileged.

Are insurance claim notes privileged?

Any material that is subject to attorney-client privilege will be marked explicitly in the file. Any material that is subject to attorney-client privilege is usually marked as “Attorney Client Privileged.”

Is an insurance policy confidential?

Most insurance policies contain a confidentiality clause that protects the insurer’s trade secrets. However, this does not mean that the information in an insurance claim file is automatically attorney-client privileged.

Is an insurance policy confidential?

No, an insurance policy is not considered confidential. However, an insurance claim file may be attorney-client privileged if it contains attorney work product.

What are the elements of the attorney-client privilege?

The attorney-client privilege is one of the oldest and most well-recognized privileges in the law. It is based on the principle that communications between lawyers and their clients should be confidential. The attorney-client privilege protects communications between lawyers and their clients from being disclosed without the client’s consent.

Are communications with insurance company privileged?

Some states consider communications between insurance firms and their policyholders privileged, which means they are not subject to discovery in a lawsuit. In other words, if you’re involved in a car accident, your insurance company can’t be forced to turn over emails or letters that you sent them.

Related Posts