Newman v. Highland Sch. Dist. No. 203 (Majority and Dissent)Annotate this Case
Highland High School quarterback Matthew Newman suffered a permanent brain injury at a football game in 2009, one day after he allegedly sustained a head injury at football practice. Three years later, Newman and his parents (collectively Newman) sued Highland School District No. 203 (Highland) for negligence. Before trial, Highland's counsel interviewed several former coaches and appeared on their behalf at their depositions. Newman moved to disqualify Highland's counsel, asserting a conflict of interest. The superior court denied the motion but ruled that Highland's counsel "may not represent non-employee witness[es] in the future." Newman then sought discovery concerning communications between Highland and the former coaches during time periods when the former coaches were unrepresented by Highland's counsel. Highland moved for a protective order, arguing its attorney-client privilege shielded counsel's communications with the former coaches. The trial court denied the motion, and Highland appealed. At issue was whether postemployment communications between former employees and corporate counsel should have been treated the same as communications with current employees for purposes of applying the corporate attorney-client privilege. After review of the specific facts of this case, the Washington Supreme Court held that the privilege does not broadly shield counsel's postemployment communications with former employees. The superior court properly denied Highland's motion for a protective order.