Seneca Insurance Co. v. Western Claims, No. 13-6284 (10th Cir. 2014)Annotate this Case
Seneca Insurance Company paid $1 million to settle a lawsuit in which its insured alleged Seneca had mishandled insurance claims for hail damage to the insured’s property. Seeking to recoup the costs of defending and settling the lawsuit, Seneca brought this action for implied equitable indemnity and negligence against its insurance adjuster, Western Claims, Inc., and Western Claims’ agent Lou Barbaro. The district court allowed Western Claims to discover and admit as evidence at trial correspondence containing advice from Seneca’s lawyers regarding the underlying hail damage claim and litigation. It concluded Seneca put the advice at issue in this lawsuit, thereby waiving any attorney-client privilege or work-product protection. The jury ultimately found in Western Claims’ favor. On appeal, Seneca sought a new trial, arguing the district court erred in concluding Seneca put the legal advice at issue. Western Claims cross appealed, arguing that even if the district court erred, Western Claims was nevertheless entitled to judgment as a matter of law on both of Seneca’s claims. After review, the Tenth Circuit concluded that because Seneca cited “advice of counsel” to justify settling with its insured in the underlying action, Seneca could not shield that advice from Western Claims. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the district court's decision that Seneca waived any attorney-client privilege or work-product protection. The Court did not reach Western Claims’ cross appeal.