Article courtesy of Margaret G. Parker-Yavuz (Akin Gump)
Trzaska v. L’Oreal USA, Inc. & L’Oréal, S.A., 2020 WL 1082616 (D.N.J. March 5, 2020)
The U.S. District Court for New Jersey affirmed a magistrate judge’s letter order denying an application to compel production of emails, finding that the emails were protected by attorney-client privilege.
The emails at issue were between an executive of L’Oréal, S.A. and the general counsel of L’Oreal USA, Inc., a subsidiary of L’Oréal, S.A. The plaintiff in the case, Steven J. Trzaska, argued that the emails were not privileged because the persons exchanging the emails worked for separate legal entities. Citing In re Teleglobe Commc’ns Corp., 493 F.3d 345, 359 (3d Cir. 2007), the court found that the magistrate judge correctly recognized that the attorney-client privilege attaches to any communication between an attorney and client that is made in confidence and for the purpose of obtaining or providing legal assistance; the fact that the attorney and client in this case worked for separate legal entities in the L’Oreal corporate group did not prevent privilege from applying.
The court noted that the emails were sent after the plaintiff informed L’Oreal USA, Inc. that he was contemplating litigation, were regarding plaintiff’s severance negotiations and included legal advice concerning plaintiff, and were marked “Attorney-Client Privileged”, and that these factors all supported the application of attorney-client privilege. The court’s ruling provides assurance that attorney-client privilege can apply where in-house counsel represents multiple legal entities within a corporate group.