Texas State Court Adopts an Expansive Privilege Standard

April 5, 2017

In 2014, the D.C. Circuit Court broke new ground by holding that attorney-client privilege protection could extend to communications when “legal advice was one of the significant purposes” for the communication — even if it was not the “primary purpose.” In re Kellogg Brown & Root, Inc., 756 F.3d 754, 758-59 (D.C. Cir. 2014). In 2015, the Southern District of New York adopted the same very favorable privilege standard. In re Gen. Motors LLC Ignition Switch Litig. , 80 F. Supp. 3d 521, 529-31 (S.D.N.Y. 2015). But these decisions did not start a federal court trend toward this more expansive approach. Most courts continue to apply the narrower “primary purpose” standard.

In In re Fairway Methanol LLC, No. 14-16-00884-CV, 2017 Tex. App. LEXIS 830 (Tex. App. Jan. 31, 2017), a Texas state court adopted the broad standard, noting that “Plaintiffs cite no Texas authority for their position that the communication must have been made for the primary purpose of soliciting legal, rather than business advice.” Id. at *12-13. The court explicitly rejected federal court decisions applying the “primary purpose” test — noting that those decisions “are not binding on our court.” Id. at *13.

At some point the corporate-friendly “one of the significant purposes” standard might begin to gain momentum.