Statements in Demand Letters Could Result in Defamation Liability in Pennsylvania if the Sender Does Not Intend To SueOn January 11, 2022 by Schnader in Communications and Media
Samantha Banks and Jonathan B. Skowron published a client alert, “Statements in Demand Letters Could Result in Defamation Liability in Pennsylvania if the Sender Does Not Intend To Sue.”
The judicial privilege provides “absolute immunity for communications which are issued in the regular course of judicial proceedings and which are pertinent and material to the redress or relief sought.” The privilege is well-established in Pennsylvania law and covers not only statements made in the litigation itself, but also “preliminary conferences and correspondence between counsel in furtherance of the client’s interest” – for example, demand letters. The purpose of the privilege is to ensure that all individuals have full access to the courts to seek legal redress, as without it, the mere filing of a complaint would often be answered by an immediate countersuit for defamation.
But does the judicial privilege protect a demand letter sent by an attorney that expressly references legal “claims” and demands a “settlement” if that attorney and his client do not actually intend to file a lawsuit? In a recent decision, Ralston v. Garabedian, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania held that it does not.