Hickman v. Taylor

329 U.S. 495 (1947)


Five crew members of a tugboat drowned when it sank. The cause of the accident was unknown. A public hearing was held at which the four survivors were examined. Their testimony was recorded and was made available to all interested parties. Taylor (D), the tugboat owner hired an attorney to defend against potential suits by representatives of the deceased crew-members. In anticipation of litigation, the attorney interviewed the survivors and other persons whom he believed to have information about the accident. Representatives from all five deceased crew-members eventually brought claims. Four settled out of court, but the fifth brought suit in federal court under the Jones Act. Hickman (P) represented one of the deceased and brought this motion to obtain copies of the statements D's attorney obtained from the survivors. P filed interrogatories asking for any statements taken from crew members, and any oral or written statements, records, reports, or other memoranda made concerning any matter relative to the towing operation, the tug's sinking, the salvaging and repair of the tug, and the deaths of the deceased. D refused P's request under the attorney-client privilege. The District Court disagreed, not finding a privilege. It ordered D and his attorney to produce the material. They refused and were held in contempt. They appealed. The Court of Appeals reversed. P then petitioned the Supreme Court for review.