Helena Chemical Co. v. UribeAnnotate this Case
This case concerned the scope of absolute privilege that grants immunity to litigants and their attorneys from being sued for defamation based on public statements they make about a judicial proceedings either before or after the proceeding is filed. Specifically, the issues before the Supreme Court in this case were: (1) whether pre-litigation statements made by an attorney to prospective clients in the presence of the press regarding a potential mass-tort lawsuit; and (2) whether statements made directly to the press by an attorney or party after such lawsuit was filed, are absolutely privileged, thus barring any lawsuit for defamation. The district court found in the affirmative on these issues and granted summary judgment to the defendants. The Court of Appeals reversed that decision, finding that absolute privilege did not apply to statements made before or after a complaint was filed when the statements were made before the press. Upon review, the Supreme Court held that absolute privilege indeed does apply to pre-litigation statements made by attorneys in the presence of the press if (1) the speaker is seriously and in good faith contemplating a lawsuit at the time the statement was made; (2) the statement is reasonably related to the proposed litigation; (3) the attorney has a client or identifiable prospective clients at the time the statement was made; and (4) the statement is made while the attorney is acting in the capacity of counsel or prospective counsel.