Bruno and Eckler Secure Dismissal of Amended Complaint Against Law Firm Defendants

July 11, 2019 | Professional Liability

Jonathan Bruno and Cali Eckler obtained the dismissal of an amended complaint on behalf of their clients, a law firm and an individually named attorney at the law firm (the law firm defendants). The claim arose from litigation that the plaintiff initiated after the board members of the homeowners’ association (HOA) where the plaintiff lived refused to permit him access to review the books and records of the HOA.

During that litigation, the board members of the HOA were represented by the law firm defendants. The HOA board members and their attorneys circulated letters to the HOA members about the litigation. The plaintiff alleged that the letters were defamatory and that the sole purpose of the letters was to “vilify him.” In the amended complaint, the plaintiff asserted two separate causes of action, defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress, and brought suit against the law firm defendants and the board members of the HOA.

Justice Joan B. Lefkowitz of Westchester County Supreme Court found that the allegations in the amended complaint failed to state a cause of action for defamation for two reasons. First, the documentary evidence submitted by the defendants demonstrated that the statements in the alleged defamatory letter were “substantially true.” Second, the Court agreed that the subject communication was entitled to an “absolute privilege” since it was made by counsel for one of the parties during the pendency of the related judicial proceeding specifically concerning that proceeding.  The Court also dismissed the intentional infliction of emotional distress claim because it was duplicative of the defamation cause of action, and because the plaintiff had not alleged conduct “so outrageous in character and so extreme in degree so as to state a cause of action.”

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