In an environmental coverage dispute, a New York federal judge recently ruled that information obtained by an insurance company from governmental agencies was protected work product and need not be disclosed in discovery. In the matter of Travelers Indemnity Co., et al. v. Northrop Grumman Corp., Northrop sought communications between its insurers and various agencies, including U.S. EPA, the Navy, and the New York Department of Environmental Conservation. Northrop's insurers argued that these materials were protected from disclosure under the attorney-client and work product privileges, likening these materials to the materials selected by an attorney in preparation for a deposition.

The court agreed, finding that information received from these public agencies after the insurers' declination of coverage fell "within the ambit of what the case law clearly indicates reflects the attorneys' work product: the documents were selected pursuant to instructions of counsel."  The court also refused to order the insurers to disclose the identity of persons interviewed unless those persons were interviewed prior to the insurers' declination of coverage.

To see a copy of the order, click here.