Brennan and others v Sunderland City Council Unison GMB: EAT 16 Dec 2008

No Waiver for disclosure of Advice

EAT PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE: Admissibility of evidence
The claimant sought disclosure of certain legal advice on the basis that its effect, and a summary of its contents, had been put before the court and therefore privilege was waived. The Tribunal rejected the application and the EAT held that they were right to do so.
Consideration of the operation of waiver principles.
Elias J P discussed the question fundamental to whether there had been a waiver: The fundamental question is whether, in the light of what has been disclosed and the context in which disclosure has occurred, it would be unfair to allow the party making disclosure not to reveal the whole of the relevant information because it would risk the court and the other party only having a partial and potentially misleading understanding of the material. The court must not allow cherry picking, but the question is: when has a cherry been relevantly placed before the court?
Typically, as we have seen, the cases attempt to determine the question whether waiver has occurred by focusing on two related matters. The first is the nature of what has been revealed; is it the substance, the gist, content or merely the effect of the advice? The second is the circumstances in which it is revealed; has it simply been referred to, used, deployed or relied upon in order to advance the parties’ case? As Waller LJ observed in the Dunlop Slazenger case [2003] EWCA Civ 901. The principles are not altogether easy to discern, partly perhaps because of the vagueness of the language adopted – for example, sometimes reliance and deployment are used as separate terms and sometimes they appear to mean much the same thing – and partly because the cases are necessarily fact sensitive . .
66. Having said that, we do accept that the authorities hold fast to the principle that legal advice privilege is an extremely important protection and that waiver is not easily established. In that context something more than the effect of the advice must be disclosed before any question of waiver can arise.
However, in our view, the answer to the question whether waiver has occurred or not depends upon considering together both what has been disclosed and the circumstances in which disclosure has occurred. As to the latter the authorities in England strongly support the view that a degree of reliance is required before waiver arises, but there may be issues as to the extent of the reliance . .’


Elias J P


[2008] UKEAT 0349 – 08 – 1612, [2009] ICR 479




England and Wales


CitedWilson v Northampton and Banbury Junction Railway Co 1872
Lord Selborne LC said: ‘It is of the highest importance . . that all communications between a solicitor and a client upon a subject which may lead to litigation should be privileged, and I think the court is bound to consider that . . almost any . .
CitedUnison GMB v Brennan and others EAT 19-Mar-2008
EAT Jurisdictional Points
Sex discrimination
Can an employment tribunal make a declaration that the term of a collective agreement is void, pursuant to section 77 of the Sex Discrimination Act, at the . .
CitedAssicurazioni Generali Spa v Arab Insurance Group (BSC) CA 13-Nov-2002
Rehearing/Review – Little Difference on Appeal
The appellant asked the Court to reverse a decision on the facts reached in the lower court.
Held: The appeal failed (Majority decision). The court’s approach should be the same whether the case was dealt with as a rehearing or as a review. . .
CitedGreat Atlantic Insurance v Home Insurance CA 1981
The defendants sought to enter into evidence one part of a document, but the plaintiffs sought to have the remainder protected through legal professional privilege.
Held: The entirety of the document was privileged, but by disclosing part, the . .
CitedNea Karteria Maritime Co Ltd v Atlantic and Great Lakes Steamship Corporation (No 2) 11-Dec-1978
The court considered disclosure of a legally privileged note of an interview: ‘I believe that the principle underlying the rule of practice exemplified by Burnell v British Transport Commission is that, where a party is deploying in court material . .
CitedDunlop Slazenger International Ltd v Joe Bloggs Sports Ltd CA 11-Jun-2003
Waller LJ said: ‘To answer the question whether waiver of parts of a privileged communication waives the complete information, it is that dictum of Mustill J., as he then was, which applies. A party is not entitled to cherry pick and a party to whom . .
CitedBennett v Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Customs Service 25-Aug-2004
Austlii (Federal Court of Australia) EVIDENCE – Privilege – Legal professional privilege – Waiver – Letter conveying substance and effect of legal advice to third party – Inconsistency between disclosure and . .
CitedExpandable Ltd and Another v Rubin CA 11-Feb-2008
The defendant’s witness statement referred to a letter written to him by the defendant’s solicitor. The claimant appealed refusal of an order for its disclosure.
Held: The appeal failed. The letter was protected by legal professional . .
CitedMann v Carnell 21-Dec-1999
Austlii (High Court of Australia) Practice and procedure – Preliminary discovery – Legal professional privilege – Loss of privilege – Waiver by disclosure to third party.
Australian Capital Territory – . .
CitedGE Capital Corporate Finance Group v Bankers Trust Co and Others CA 3-Aug-1994
Irrelevant parts of documents required to be disclosed may be blanked out on discovery by the party giving discovery. Hoffmann LJ: ‘It has long been the practice that a party is entitled to seal up or cover up parts of a document which he claims to . .
CitedInfields Ltd v P Rosen and Son CA 1938
Sir Wilfred Greene MR said that reliance on a document was not of itself sufficient to displace legal professional privilege: ‘In my judgment, the same principle applies here. All that the deponent was doing was saying: ‘Well, I am asking the court . .
CitedGovernment Trading Corporation v Tate and Lyle Industries Ltd CA 24-Oct-1984
Reference was made to information derived from Iranian lawyers. The solicitor in an affirmation had set out his understanding of Iranian law on the incorporation of a Government Trading Corporation in Iran and stated that his information had been . .
CitedRegina v Secretary of State for Transport ex-parte Factortame and Others CA 1988
The Secretary of State was willing to make legal advice given to him available on the grounds that privilege had been waived, but not advice after a particular cut off date. The claimants were dubious as to whether the privilege had been properly . .
CitedUniversity of Southampton v Dr C K Kelly EAT 14-Nov-2005
EAT The respondent had stated in its response to the complaint of unfair dismissal that it had realised that it would be unlawful to continue to employ the claimant after having taken legal advice. The claimant . .

Cited by:

CitedRe D (a child) CA 14-Jun-2011
In the course of care proceedings, the mother had revised her version of events, and then explained why. The father sought disclosure of the attendance notes of her solicitor, saying that she had waived any privilege in the advice given. She now . .
AppliedThe National Crime Agency v Perry and Others QBD 12-Nov-2014
The agency had taken proceedings against the defendant to reciver what it said were theproceeds of crime. That claim was dicontinued. The defendant sought to recover his costs on an indemnity basis, and relying upon a witness statement from an . .
Appeal fromCouncil of The City of Sunderland v Brennan and Others CA 3-Apr-2012
Equal pay claim – Whether difference in pay due to material factor other than sex . .
See AlsoSunderland City Council v Brennan and Others EAT 2-May-2012
(1) An employment tribunal has no jurisdiction to determine claims for contribution under the Civil Liability . .
See AlsoSunderland City Council v Brennan and Others EAT 2-May-2012
(1) An employment tribunal has no jurisdiction to determine claims for contribution under the Civil Liability . .
CitedKyla Shipping Co Ltd and Another v Freight Trading Ltd and Others ComC 22-Feb-2022
Litigation Privilege
Defendants challenged the claimants assertion of litigation privilege and contended for a waiver of any privilege which entitles them to disclosure of additional materials referred to in a witness statement.
Held: ‘I dismiss the waiver of . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Employment, Legal Professions, Litigation Practice

Leading Case

Updated: 23 March 2022; Ref: scu.278812