Court Takes a Liberal View of Privilege for Communications Between a Plaintiff and a Litigation Funder

June 22, 2016

With litigants’ increasing reliance on litigation funders, courts have had to wrestle with privilege and work product issues, including whether litigants and their litigation funders share a “common interest” allowing the former to avoid a waiver when disclosing privileged communications to the latter, and whether litigation funders can create protected work product.

In In re International Oil Trading Co. 548 B.R. 825 (Bankr. S.D. Fla. 2016), the court held that the plaintiff and its litigation funder Burford Capital shared a sufficiently common legal interest, so that the plaintiff did not waive its privilege protection by disclosing privileged communications to Burford. And the court even went beyond that — finding that Burford was a protected client agent assisting the company “‘in furtherance of the rendition of legal services,'” and therefore within the privilege on that separate ground. Id. at 834 (citation omitted). The court also held that Burford could create protected work product, concluding that “[i]t does not matter that Burford’s obvious purpose is to obtain a return on its investment, just as it does not matter that counsel’s purpose typically is to earn a fee.” Id. at 836.

Not all courts share this liberal attitude toward privilege and work product protection in the context of litigation funders, but the trend seems to be in that direction.