Greenberg Traurig, P.A. v. Bresnahan, — So.2d —-, 2009 WL 383622 (Fla. 4th DCA Feb 18, 2009)

In the linked-to case the trustee asserted the "advice of counsel defense" to a lawsuit alleging a breach of fiduciary duty. Here’s how the defense was asserted:

Within that trust litigation, D’Andrea asserted the “advice of counsel defense,” pointing to his consultation with Greenberg Traurig and, specifically, attorney Francis B. Brogan, Jr. D’Andrea moved for summary judgment, and provided a detailed affidavit from attorney Brogan. Within that affidavit, attorney Brogan addresses the legal advice given regarding the property at issue in the trust litigation.

This defense may ultimately work, but it comes with a risk: once you open the door to your lawyer’s advice by using it as an affirmative defense, you’ve waived the attorney-client privilege within the scope of that advice. And that may be OK, but be ready to litigate the "scope" of your waiver. Which is what happened in this case:

What followed was a subpoena for deposition duces tecum and notice of taking deposition on the non-party Records Custodian for Greenberg Traurig, P.A. The subpoena sought broad categories of discovery relating to the Trust.

Greenberg Traurig moved to quash the subpoena and for protective orders, arguing that D’Andrea’s limited waiver of the attorney-client privilege applied only to the transaction surrounding the specific property at issue in the underlying litigation. Paradise Divers, Inc. v. Upmal, 943 So.2d 812, 814 (Fla. 3d DCA 2006). Nevertheless, the firm produced documents, though it redacted portions which it deemed beyond that limited waiver. Following the trial court’s in camera inspection of the redacted documents, it ordered Greenberg Traurig’s Record Custodian to produce all records, in unredacted form.

And here’s why the 4th DCA quashed the probate court’s order:

We quash the portion of the order that requires the unredacted production of documents GT 01, GT 05, GT 11-12, and GT 13-30. The subject matter associated with documents GT 01 and GT 11-12 is beyond the scope of the express limited waiver. Paradise Divers, 943 So.2d at 814. The remaining redactions concern internal housekeeping information and billing entries and fee amounts, which in this case should remain confidential. See generally Paskoski v. Johnson, 626 So.2d 338, 339 (Fla. 4th DCA 1993); see also Jacob v. Barton, 877 So.2d 935 (Fla. 2d DCA 2004).