Watchous Enterprises, L.L.C. v. Pacific National Capital et al
ORDER taking under advisement 60 Motion to Quash. See order for new deadlines. Signed by Magistrate Judge James P. O'Hara on 9/28/2017. Mailed to pro se parties by certified mail. (amh)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF KANSAS
WATCHOUS ENTERPRISES, L.L.C.,
Case No. 16-1432-JTM
PACIFIC NATIONAL CAPITAL, et al.,
Nonparty Charles J. Hyland, former counsel for defendants Pacific National Capital
(“Pacific”) and Waterfall Mountain USA LLC, Waterfall Mountain LLC, and Waterfall
International Holdings Limited (collectively, “Waterfall”), has filed a motion to quash a
subpoena issued by plaintiff Watchous Enterprises, LLC (“Watchous”) (ECF No. 60).
Hyland objects that complying with the subpoena would require him to disclose his
privileged communications with his then-clients. Pacific has filed briefs in support of the
motion to quash. Waterfall has remained silent on the matter. As discussed below, the
motion is taken under advisement and the parties are directed to take further action.
In June 2016, Watchous and Pacific entered an agreement whereby Pacific would
attempt to find a joint venturer, lender, or investor for certain of Watchous’s oil and gas
interests. Pacific introduced Watchous to Waterfall, and Watchous and Waterfall eventually
executed a letter of intent (“LOI”) to become joint venturers. Watchous deposited $175,000
into Waterfall’s bank account in accordance with the terms of the LOI. However, because
Watchous and Waterfall never reached a final agreement, the LOI required Waterfall to
refund the deposit.
Watchous filed this lawsuit in December 2016, alleging the deposit was never
refunded. Hyland entered an appearance as counsel for all defendants (Waterfall funded
Pacific’s defense). In April 2017, the parties reached a settlement whereby one or more of
the defendants agreed to pay $175,000 to Watchous in three installments. When no payment
was made on the first installment date, Watchous amended its complaint to add, among other
things, a claim against Pacific and Waterfall for breach of the settlement agreement. In June
2017, Hyland withdrew from representing Waterfall and Pacific.
In August 2017, Pacific, jointly with newly added defendants Charles A. Elfsten and
Mark M. Hasegawa, filed an answer to the amended complaint, in which Pacific denied
being a party to the settlement agreement.1 Specifically, Pacific stated that it “did not give
Charles Hyland express authorization or implied consent to settle with Plaintiff on the terms
as alleged by Plaintiff,” such that Hyland lacked authority to bind Pacific to the agreement.2
Thus, whether Pacific gave Hyland authority to enter the settlement agreement has become
an issue materially relevant to Watchous’s breach-of-settlement-agreement claim.
Seeking discovery on this issue, Watchous served a subpoena duces tecum on Hyland.
The subpoena requested:
Copies of any and all documents or communications: 1) expressly or impliedly
granting you authority to extend the offer conveyed by your email of April 3,
2017, to settle the litigation; 2) allowing any person or defendant to direct the
litigation, or settlement of the litigation, on behalf of Pacific National Capital;
3) showing when Pacific National Capital was notified of the settlement; 4)
showing that Pacific National Capital ratified the settlement; 5) showing that
Pacific National Capital repudiated the settlement, claimed that you entered
into without authorization, or objected to the terms of the offer or settlement;
6) showing that Pacific National Capital authorized you to stay the captioned
litigation after the settlement was reached.3
Hyland moves to quash the subpoena on the ground that complying would require him to
produce communications protected by the attorney-client privilege. Hyland states the
documents in his possession responsive to the subpoena are e-mails sent and received
ECF No. 56 at 6. By this time, Pacific was represented by new (and current) counsel.
ECF No. 52.
ECF No. 56 at 19.
ECF No. 58 at 5.
between Hyland and both Pacific and Waterfall. He implies there are no responsive
documents showing communications between Hyland and Pacific only.
Pacific has filed briefs in support of Hyland’s motion to quash.4 Pacific agrees with
Hyland that the responsive e-mails are communications protected by the attorney-client
privilege and argues it did not waive the privilege. Waterfall, which has been completely
inactive in this case since Hyland withdrew as counsel,5 has not asserted attorney-client
privilege or otherwise responded to the instant motion or Watchous’s notice of intent to issue
a subpoena to Hyland.6
Fed. R. Civ. P. 45 governs the issuance of subpoenas to non-parties, such as Hyland.
Rule 45(d)(3)(A)(iii) directs the court to quash a subpoena that “requires disclosure of
ECF Nos. 63 & 66.
Waterfall has ignored orders to secure new counsel (ECF No. 37) and to show cause
why default judgment should not be entered against it for failure to secure counsel (ECF No.
39). Waterfall has further failed to respond to the amended complaint (ECF No. 40). The
undersigned suspects default will soon be entered against Waterfall—either upon a motion
filed by plaintiff or by the presiding U.S. District Judge, J. Thomas Marten, sue sponte, based
on Waterfall’s failure to respond to the show cause order.
Watchous states it served a copy of the notice of intent to subpoena on Waterfall via
mail to defendant William Mournes, whom Hyland has stated was his “principle [sic]
contact” at Waterfall. See ECF No. 60 at 1-2; ECF No. 65 at 11; ECF No. 67 at 5. Hyland
states he contacted Waterfall’s non-Kansas attorney (who is not of record in this case), and
the attorney advised Waterfall does not waive the attorney-client privilege. ECF No. 60 at
4. The record reflects Waterfall was subsequently mailed the motion to quash, briefs
addressing the dispute, and the court’s order expediting briefing on the motion.
privileged or other protected matter, if no exception or waiver applies.” “In federal court,
the determination of what is privileged depends upon the dictates of Rule 501 of the Federal
Rules of Evidence.”7 Because subject-matter jurisdiction in this case is based on diversity,
Rule 501 directs that “state law governs privilege.”
Under Kansas law, the essential elements of the attorney-client privilege are:
(1) Where legal advice is sought (2) from a professional legal advisor in his
capacity as such, (3) the communications made in the course of that
relationship (4) made in confidence (5) by the client (6) are permanently
protected (7) from disclosures by the client, the legal advisor, or any other
witness (8) unless privilege is waived.8
The purpose of the attorney-client privilege “is to encourage full and frank communication
between attorneys and their clients and thereby promote broader public interests in the
observance of law and administration of justice.”9 It protects “advice given by an attorney
in the course of representing the client,” as well as “disclosures of the client . . . incidental
Rowan v. Sunflower Elec. Power Corp., 2016 WL 3745680, No. 15-9227-JWL-TJJ,
at *3 (D. Kan. Jul 13, 2016) (citing Tect Aerospace Wellington, Inc. v. Thyssenkrupp
Materials NA, 2009 WL 1313230, No. 07-1306-JTM, at 2 (D. Kan. May 12, 2009)); see also
ERA Franchise Sys., Inc. v. N. Ins. Co., 183 F.R.D. 276, 278 (D. Kan. 1998).
Rowan, 2016 WL 3745680, at *3 (citations omitted); ERA Franchise, 183 F.R.D. at
278 (citations omitted); Cypress Media, Inc. v. City of Overland Park, 997 P.2d 681, 689
(Kan. 2000) (quoting State v. Maxwell, 691 P.2d 1316 (Kan. Ct. App. 1984)).
Klassen v. Univ. of Kan. Sch. of Med., 2016 WL 6138169, No. 13-2561-DDC-KGS,
at *3 (D. Kan. Oct. 21, 2016) (quoting Upjohn Co. v. United States, 449 U.S. 383, 389
to the professional relationship.”10 The privilege does not apply, however, “to every
communication between attorney and client.”11 For example, K.S.A. § 60-426(b) lists
exceptions to the privilege, and many other instances of non-privileged attorney-client
communications have been recognized by this court.12
A person seeking to assert the attorney-client privilege as a bar to discovery has the
burden of establishing that it applies.13 Rule 45(e)(2) provides, “A person withholding
subpoenaed information under a claim that it is privileged . . . must: (i) expressly make the
claim; and (ii) describe the nature of the withheld documents, communications, or tangible
things in a manner that, without revealing information itself privileged . . . will enable the
parties to assess the claim.” To carry his burden on a motion to quash, the subpoenaed
person “must provide sufficient information to enable the court to determine whether each
element of the asserted privilege is satisfied. A claim of privilege fails upon a failure of
K.S.A. § 60-426(c)(2); see also Upjohn Co., 449 U.S. at 390 (“[T]he privilege exists
to protect not only the giving of professional advice to those who can act on it but also the
giving of information to the lawyer to enable him to give sound and informed advice.”).
Cypress Media, 997 P.2d at 690.
See, e.g., In re Syngenta, No. 14-md-2591, 2017 WL 386835, at *4 (D. Kan. Jan. 27,
Harlow v. Sprint Nextel Corp., No. 08-2222, 2012 WL 646003, at *5 (D. Kan. Feb.
28, 2012) (citing Peat, Marwick, Mitchell & Co. v. West, 748 F.2d 540, 542 (10th Cir.
1984)); Johnson v. Gmeinder, 191 F.R.D. 638, 642 (D. Kan. 2000) (applying Kansas law).
proof as to any element. A ‘blanket claim’ as to the applicability of a privilege does not
satisfy the burden of proof.”14
In addition, the burden of proving the privilege has not been waived remains with the
person asserting the privilege.15 Typically, waiver will be found if a client discloses
confidential information to a third party. The Kansas Court of Appeals has recognized the
joint-client doctrine, however, ruling that when “two or more persons employ an attorney as
their common attorney, their communications to him in the presence of each other are
regarded as confidential” and do not waive the privilege.16 “The rule goes further and
Cypress Media, 997 P.2d at 693 (quoting ERA Franchise, 183 F.R.D. at 278-79
(internal citations omitted)).
Johnson, 191 F.R.D. at 642-43 (applying Kansas law); Maxwell, 691 P.2d at 1319.
Maxwell, 691 P.2d at 1320; see also id. (“Where two or more persons jointly consult
an attorney concerning mutual concerns, their confidential communications with the attorney,
although known to each other, will be privileged in controversies of either or both of the
clients with the outside world.”). As Watchous notes, the Kansas Supreme Court has
mentioned that codification of the attorney-client privilege in K.S.A. § 60-426 may affect
whether the joint-defense privilege is recognized in Kansas, but has not decided the issue.
See Associated Wholesale Grocers, Inc. v. Americold Corp., 975 P.2d 231, 239 (Kan. 1999).
“Where jurisdiction rests solely on diversity of citizenship and there is no controlling
decision by the highest court of a state, a decision by an intermediate court should be
followed by the Federal court, absent convincing evidence that the highest court of the state
would decide otherwise.” MidAm. Constr. Mgmt., Inc. v. MasTec N. Am., Inc., 436 F.3d
1257, 1262 (10th Cir. 2006). This court has not been presented with convincing evidence
that the Kansas Supreme Court would deviate from Maxwell’s recognition of the joint-client
doctrine. Indeed, K.S.A. § 60-426 itself appears to recognize the doctrine in discussing “a
communication . . . relevant to a matter of common interest between two or more clients if
made by any of them to an attorney whom they have retained in common.” K.S.A. § 60426(b)(5) (emphasis added) (setting forth a privilege exception when a communication is
offered in a later action between any such joint clients). Accordingly, the court will apply
provides that where several persons employ an attorney and a third party seeks to have
communications made therein disclosed, none of the several persons—not even a
majority—can waive this privilege.”17 However, the court does not hold (and the parties do
not assert) that the privilege can never be waived when two or more people are jointly
represented—when all clients waive the privilege the privilege is, indeed, waived.18 In
addition, although not addressed in Maxwell, there is authority for concluding a single client
may waive privilege over communications affecting only him.19
Waiver may be implicit, as well as explicit. An implied waiver “may be founded on
delay or inaction in asserting a known right.”20 For example, in S.E.C. v. McNaul, the court
held former clients implicitly waived the attorney-client privilege when they asserted only
blanket objections to a subpoena, “without specifically showing why they claimed any of the
documents were privileged,” and then failed to respond to a show cause order directing them
to show why their motion to quash should not be denied.21 An implied waiver may also be
Maxwell’s rulings on the joint-client doctrine.
Maxwell, 691 P.2d at 1320 (citing 81 Am. Jur. 2d, Witnesses § 189).
See David M. Greenwald, Robert R. Stauffer, & Erin R. Schrantz, Testimonial
Privileges § 1:104 (2015 ed.) (“Each client retains the power to waive the privilege as to his
or her own communications with the lawyer; the privilege for joint communications must be
waived by all.”).
S.E.C. v. McNaul, 277 F.R.D. 439, 443 (D. Kan. 2011).
found when a party puts privileged communication at issue.22 In McNaul, the court ruled,
“[w]hen a party puts a privileged matter in issue as evidence in a case, it . . . waives the
privilege as to all related privileged matters on the same subject.”23 There, the court held that
because the former clients argued they had acted upon the advice of counsel, they “placed
in issue whether they received advice from the Firm,” and thereby implicitly waived the
attorney-client privilege as to communications on the subject.24
As the record now stands, Hyland has failed to satisfy his burdens of establishing (1)
that the attorney-client privilege protects all communications responsive to the subpoena and
(2) that, even assuming the privilege applies, the privilege has not been waived by both
Pacific and Waterfall.
First, Hyland has failed to establish the attorney-client privilege protects responsive
documents from disclosure. As noted above, Hyland was required to “describe the nature
of the withheld documents, communications, or tangible things in a manner that, without
revealing information itself privileged . . . will enable the parties to assess the claim.”25
Id. at 444 (quoting 8 Charles Alan Wright, Arthur R. Miller & Richard L. Marcus,
Federal Practice and Procedure § 2016.6 (3d ed. 2010)).
Fed. R. Civ. P. 45(e)(2).
Hyland has not produced a privilege log or otherwise provided a detailed description of the
documents. The court, therefore, does not possess sufficient information to enable it to
determine whether each element of attorney-client privilege is satisfied with respect to each
communication. “A ‘blanket claim’ as to the applicability of a privilege does not satisfy the
burden of proof.”26
Second, Hyland has not adequately addressed the question of implicit waiver by
Pacific and by Waterfall. Based on the caselaw discussed above, the court finds it very
possible that Pacific waived privilege over the disputed emails by placing the
communications at issue in its answer to the amended complaint, and that Waterfall waived
the privilege in failing to assert it in the face of the instant dispute.
Despite the shortcomings in Hyland’s arguments, the court declines to deny the
motion to quash and to order Hyland to produce the responsive e-mails at this time. It is
well-settled that the attorney-client privilege belongs to the client, not the attorney,27 and
“should not be set aside lightly.”28 Thus, the undersigned will follow the approach taken in
Cypress Media, 997 P.2d at 693 (quoting ERA Franchise, 183 F.R.D. at 278-79
(internal citations omitted)).
Maxwell, 691 P.2d at 1320; K.S.A. 60-426(a).
Wallace, Saunders, Austin, Brown & Enochs, Chartered v. Louisburg Grain Co., 824
P.2d 933, 940 (Kan. 1992).
other cases in this district and give the clients a direct opportunity to establish the
applicability of the privilege, including the absence of waiver.29
First, Hyland is ordered to turn over copies of all documents he identified as
responsive to the subpoena to his former clients, Pacific and Waterfall. Hyland shall provide
the copies no later than October 4, 2017.
Second, should Pacific or Waterfall wish to assert attorney-client privilege protection
over any of the responsive documents, it shall produce a detailed description of the document
that would allow the court and parties to determine whether every element of the privilege
has been meet. This description, which is typically set out in a privilege log, must contain
A description of the document explaining whether the document is a
memorandum, letter, e-mail, etc.;
The date upon which the document was prepared;
The date of the document (if different from # 2);
See, e.g., In re Syngenta, No. 14-md-2591, 2017 WL 1106257, at *2 (D. Kan. March
24, 2017) (former client ordered to submit its own privilege log in support of motion to quash
subpoena issued to former counsel); McNaul, 277 F.R.D. at 441 (giving clients twenty days
to satisfy Fed. R. Civ. P. 45’s requirement that withheld documents be described in a manner
that would allow the parties to assess the privilege claims); Phalp v. City of Overland Park,
Kan., No. 00-2354, 2002 WL 1162449, at *4 (D. Kan. May 8, 2002) (giving party clients,
as well as non-party attorney-movant, twenty days to provide detailed descriptions of
withheld documents); see also Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. v. Kirk’s Tire & Auto
Servicenter of Harverstraw, Inc., 211 F.R.D. 658, 665 (D. Kan. 2003) (ordering subpoenaed
company moving to quash on privilege grounds to provide a privilege log within twenty
The identity of the person(s) who prepared the document;
The identity of the person(s) for whom the document was prepared, as
well as the identities of those to whom the document and copies of the
document were directed;
The purpose of preparing the document, including an evidentiary
showing, based on competent evidence, “supporting any assertion that
the document was prepared in the course of adversarial litigation or in
anticipation of a threat of adversarial litigation that was real and
imminent;” a similar evidentiary showing that the subject of
communications within the document relates to seeking or giving legal
advice; and a showing, again based on competent evidence, “that the
documents do not contain or incorporate non-privileged underlying
The number of pages of the document;
The party’s basis for withholding discovery of the document (i.e., the
specific privilege or protection being asserted); and
Any other pertinent information necessary to establish the elements of
each asserted privilege.30
If a party fails to carry its burden of establishing that documents withheld are subject to
privilege, the court may conclude that the privilege is waived.31 Any such assertion of
privilege by Pacific and/or Waterfall must be made by October 11, 2017, by production of
the description/log to both plaintiff and the court (via e-mail to the undersigned’s chambers).
In re Syngenta, 2017 WL 1106257, at *4; New Jersey v. Sprint Corp., 258 F.R.D.
421, 448-49 (D. Kan. 2009) (citing cases).
See New Jersey, 258 F.R.D. at 448; Kannaday v. Ball, 292 F.R.D. 640, 646 (D. Kan.
2013) (“It is well settled that if a party fails to make the required showing under Fed. R. Civ.
P. 26(b)(5)(A) by not producing a privilege log or by producing an inadequate one, courts
may deem the privilege waived.”).
By that same date, any party asserting the privilege must submit the document(s) being
withheld to the undersigned for in camera review (as an attachment to an e-mail). The court
urges defendants to be judicious in making privilege assertions, and directs them to the
detailed discussion of what is—and is not—protected by the attorney-client privilege set out
in In re Syngenta.32 It is often the case that a document may be produced with only a small
portion of it redacted on privilege grounds.
Third, any party that wishes to address whether Pacific and/or Waterfall waived the
attorney-client privilege over the responsive, withheld e-mails may file a supplemental brief
on the issue by October 18, 2017.33 The supplemental brief must be limited to five, doublespaced pages. No responses will be permitted. The supplemental brief should address the
applicability of McNaul and any other relevant case. It should further address the scope of
the waiver (whether limited to communications regarding the settlement, or whether
extending beyond that to the general subject of Hyland’s representation of Pacific and
Waterfall), should the court find waiver.
To be clear, the court holds today that Hyland has failed to meet his burden in moving
to quash the subpoena issued by Watchous. But because the attorney-client privilege belongs
No. 14-md-2591, 2017 WL 386835, at *4 (D. Kan. Jan. 27, 2017). Although the
discussion in In re Syngenta is of federal, rather than Kansas, legal standards, the similarity
of the standards should nevertheless make the review useful. See Cypress Media, 997 P.2d
at 692 (discussing overlap of Kansas and Federal standards).
Of course, as the court has explained many times, Waterfall may only file in this case
via an attorney who has entered an appearance on its behalf. See supra note 5.
to Hyland’s clients, the court will give Pacific and Waterfall a final opportunity to (1) assert
the privilege, on their own behalf, over some or all of the responsive documents and (2)
satisfy the burden of proving the applicability of the privilege, including absence of waiver.34
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Dated September 28, 2017, at Kansas City, Kansas.
s/James P. O’Hara
James P. O’Hara
U.S. Magistrate Judge
Waterfall is warned that if it chooses to forego this opportunity, the court will deem
its inaction a clear intent to waive its ability to claim privilege over the communications at
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