Not a Lexis Advance subscriber? Try it out for free.

Aetna Casualty & Sur. Co. v. Superior Court

Court of Appeal of California, First Appellate District, Division Two

February 21, 1984

No. AO23867

Opinion

 [*470]  [**472]   This proceeding in mandamus arises out of a discovery matter in an action against an insurance company, the Aetna Casualty and Surety Company (Aetna). The underlying action is one for declaratory relief in which a counter claim for bad faith denial of insurance coverage has been filed.

Because the issues raised in Aetna's petition for writ of prohibition or mandamus involve a highly protected privilege, we granted Aetna's petition and issued the alternative writ. ( Sav-On Drugs, Inc. v. Superior Court (1975) 15 Cal.3d 1, 5 [123 Cal.Rptr. 283, 538 P.2d 739]; [***2]  Glacier Gen. Assurance Co. v. Superior Court (1979) 95 Cal.App.3d 836, 838 [157 Cal.Rptr. 435].)

Facts

Jan Pietrzak (Pietrzak), one of the real parties in interest herein, owned a home in Marin County which was insured under a fire and casualty insurance policy issued by Aetna. On January 4, 1982, a severe rainstorm touched off a mud slide which completely destroyed Pietrzak's home. Pietrzak subsequently filed a claim for compensation for the loss. Aetna retained the law firm of Thornton, Taylor & Downs (Thornton) to assist in the investigation of this claim. In May of 1982 Aetna filed a declaratory relief action claiming that Pietrzak's insurance policy did not cover damages caused by "earth movement or flooding." Although Thornton apparently assisted Aetna in determining whether the insurance policy covered the damage to Pietrzak's home, because of a possible conflict of interest Thornton withdrew as counsel for Aetna prior to the time the declaratory relief action was commenced. The declaratory relief action was filed by Aetna's new counsel, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.

 [*471]  In response to the declaratory relief action, Pietrzak filed a claim alleging [***3]  bad faith denial of insurance coverage. Pietrzak then served a subpoena duces tecum on Thornton's custodian of records requiring the custodian to produce Thornton's files regarding its investigation of the Pietrzak claim. In addition, Pietrzak served notices of deposition on two Thornton attorneys who had been involved in investigating the Pietrzak claim.

Read The Full CaseNot a Lexis Advance subscriber? Try it out for free.

Full case includes Shepard's, Headnotes, Legal Analytics from Lex Machina, and more.

153 Cal. App. 3d 467 *; 200 Cal. Rptr. 471 **; 1984 Cal. App. LEXIS 1796 ***

AETNA CASUALTY AND SURETY COMPANY et al., Petitioners, v. THE SUPERIOR COURT OF THE CITY AND COUNTY OF SAN FRANCISCO, Respondent; JAN PIETRZAK et al., Real Parties in Interest

Subsequent History:  [***1]  As Modified March 22, 1984.

Disposition: Let a peremptory writ of mandate issue directing the San Francisco County Superior Court to vacate its order of August 12, 1983, denying Aetna's motions and commanding said court to hold such further proceedings as are consistent with the views expressed in this opinion.

CORE TERMS

insured, attorney-client, communications, advice, work product privilege, insurance company, state of mind, joint client, documents, legal advice, discovery, courts, privileged, cases, files, investigate, consulted, coverage, hired, declaratory relief action, insurance coverage, bad faith denial, common interest, work product, inspection, Italics, waive

Evidence, Privileges, Attorney-Client Privilege, Exceptions, General Overview, Civil Procedure, Discovery, Privileged Communications, Work Product Doctrine, Elements, Insurance Law, Liability & Performance Standards, Bad Faith & Extracontractual Liability, Attorneys, Scope