The Litigation Privilege Applies To Settlement Letters Directed To Counsel

The Second District of the California Court of Appeals published two cases involving defamation in the span of one week.  The first case involved the Staples Center Owners and this next case deals with a little known issue–the litigation privilege.

The Appellants were defendants in an earlier case where the plaintiffs offered to dismiss one of the defendants on certain conditions.  The plaintiffs in that case sent a settlement letter to the defendants, which the defendants contended was unethical because it sought to create a conflict of interest so that defendant’s attorney, in effect, would not able to represent any of the defendants. The defendants sued the plaintiffs for intentional interference with contractual relations and negligence.

The plaintiffs filed an anti-SLAPP motion and they prevailed because the court held that the litigation privilege applied to the settlement letter.

The decision was appealed and was then affirmed.

While this decision is not surprising since a purpose of the litigation privilege is to "promote[] the effectiveness of judicial proceedings by encouraging attorneys to zealously protect their clients’ interests," what is interesting is how the court compared the privilege to the Rules of Professional Conduct.

In short, the court said that the litigation privilege trumps the Rules of Professional Conduct.  This is a powerful statement!

It underscores the importance the court of appeal places on the litigation privilege.



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