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Frechtman v Gutterman,

115 A.D.3d 102, 979 N.Y.S.2d 58 [1st Dept., 2014]

When a client discharges his lawyer in a letter, the statements made in the letter are privileged and the lawyer has no claim for defamation, even if the letter makes accusations of malpractice which in other contexts might be actionable.

The statements here included these:

“We do not believe you adequately represented our interest,”
“We believe your failure to act in our best interest in reference to certain matters upon first engaging in the matter may equate to misconduct, malpractice, and negligence,”
“We believe that your future representation on this matter only became necessary, as a result of mistakes and oversights made by you acting as counsel,” and
“[W]e believe that we should not pay for the value of services for which any misconduct or counsel oversight relates to the representation for which fees are sought.”

The lawyer here sued for defamation, and the defendant moved to dismiss for failure to state a cause of action. Supreme Court dismissed the action, and the First Department affirmed. Read More