Legal Advice Privilege: Waiving privilege does not mean you can cherry-pick what you disclose
This is a warning case to employers involved in litigation. In Kasongo v Humanscale UK Ltd UKEAT/0129/19 the claimant brought claims of unfair dismissal and discrimination related to pregnancy and maternity. Part of the employer’s strategy was to waive its legal advice privilege (i.e. communications between a client and their solicitor which are confidential and come into existence for the purpose or giving or receiving advice about what should prudently or sensibly be done in the relevant legal context) because certain documents arguably demonstrated that it did not know about the claimant’s pregnancy at the time it was considering dismissing her. The documents comprised a draft dismissal letter prepared by the solicitors from which the solicitors notes and comments had been redacted (it was agreed that the letter itself was not legally privileged, but the redacted parts were) and two earlier documents. The issue was whether the disclosure of the two earlier documents meant that the redacted parts were no longer protected by privilege, and therefore if the tribunal had erred in its decision as to which documents were protected by legal advice privilege.
The EAT held that the tribunal had erred in failing to address or rule on one of the three documents. All three documents were part of the same transaction of providing legal advice about the dismissal of the claimant and, given the nature and purpose of the disclosure, the EAT held that fairness required that the redacted part of the letter concerning the reason for the claimant’s dismissal also be disclosed. The reason being that it would be unfair to allow the respondent who had waived privilege in relation to the other two documents not to reveal those redacted parts of the dismissal letter which related to the reason for dismissal. Cherry-picking the parts one discloses is therefore impermissible. The appeal was allowed and the EAT ordered that the redactions be removed and the full letter be included in the trial bundle for evidence at the hearing.
Published: 25 September 2019
Article Sections: Tribunal Proceedings