In the new California case of Seahaus La Jolla Owners Association v. Superior Court, the Court of Appeals held that a homeowner’s association (HOA) did not waive its attorney-client privilege when the HOA’s counsel held litigation update meetings with individual non-party homeowners.
In the case, the individual homeowners were not the clients of the HOA’s counsel, and had filed a companion action for construction defects in their own private units. The defendants argued that the HOA waived its attorney-client privilege with respect to any litigation strategies shared at the update meetings with the non-client homeowners. The HOA argued the communications were privileged because the statutory “common interest exception to waiver” applied to the communications with the individual homeowners.
In siding with the HOA, the Court found that the common interest doctrine protects the attorney-client privilege when two parties have a shared interest in securing legal advice related to the same matter and communicate to advance that shared interest. The Court emphasized that the HOA had a statutory and contractual duty to keep the individual homeowners informed about the litigation. Thus, the HOA was attempting to protect the condominium’s common areas and the interests of the other stakeholders by discussing the litigation with the individual homeowners. The Court also found that the HOA and the individual homeowners had common interests due to the two closely related construction defect lawsuits. Accordingly, the Court ruled that the communications concerning the litigation at the update meetings were privileged.