06 Nov Interview with Carrier is Protected Work Product
A recent ruling by the Prince William County Circuit Court declared that interviews by carriers with their insured regarding an auto accident fall within the shield provided by the “work product” doctrine of supreme Court Rule 4:1(b)(3). The Virginia Court of Appeals upheld the decision. Plaintiff’s motion to compel was denied for several reasons.
First, the court stated that the “work product” doctrine “protect[s] not only materials gathered by or for counsel in anticipation of litigation, but materials gathered by or for others, including the liability insurance carrier.” Furthermore, the court cited Veney v. Duke for the proposition that discussions of third party coverage is protected by the “work product” doctrine, and extended that logic to discussions of first party coverage. Finally, since the case at bar involved an insured who plead guilty to a traffic infraction and contested liability in a subsequent civil case, the court stated that the affirmative duty of defense counsel to prevent his client from testifying to a known falsehoods “offers sufficient protections.”
This ruling has important ramifications for Virginia subrogation attorneys, insurance defense firms and personal injury attorneys. For the Virginia subrogation attorney, this ruling confirms an intuition long held, that those conversations by insurance adjusters regarding third party coverage should be protected under Virginia’s “work product” doctrine. Insurance defense firms facing Virginia subrogation firms should expect to be stymied by this latest ruling when issuing subpoenas duces tecums in the future.