in brief: Coito v. Superior Court may alter the way in which information is gathered in some class actions

Yesterday, in Coito v. Superior Court (March 4, 2010), the Court of Appeal (Fifth Appellate District) addressed an issue that nominally concerned the collection of evidence in a wrongful death lawsuit naming California as one defendant.  The facts are particularly sad in that the case involved the death of a child, but, then, the facts of all wrongful death cases are sad.  The issue addressed in Coito is whether an attorney's collection of a witness statement after the attorney selected the witness to interview is work product (absolute or qualified).  Coito holds that even attorney-collected statements are not, unless the attorney's independent thoughts and analysis are inextricably intertwined with the statements of the witness.  The majority is exceedingly critical of Nacht & Lewis Architects, Inc. v. Superior Court, 47 Cal.App.4th 214 (1996), a case frequently relied upon to shield putative class member declarations from discovery.  Coito puts that argument in jeopardy.  I may be wrong, but I think that this decision may affect the manner in which putative class members are handled during interviews by counsel on both sides.  The case, and especially the long and thoughtful concurring and dissenting opinion, deserves more attention than I can provide today, so I may post a longer comment over the weekend.