Westmont Maintenance Corporation v. Vance, 2013 UT App 236 (October 3, 2013)
Oct 3, 2013
In an action where an attorney was sued for defamation based on letters he wrote to plaintiffs and their counsel before formal proceedings were instituted, the Utah Court of Appeals soundly affirmed the applicability of the judicial proceedings privilege and awarded sanctions. Westmont Maintenance, 2013 UT App 236, ¶ 22. Although the attorney wrote several letters asserting fraud, extortion, and forgery before any action was filed, because these letters were “preliminary to a proposed judicial proceeding,” and “broadly” related to the underlying dispute between the litigants, the judicial proceedings privilege applied, barring the defamation action. Id. ¶ ¶ 15 – 17. Moreover, even though the accused attorney was acting pro se and Utah law precludes prevailing-party attorney fees in such instances, the court affirmed an award of attorney fees based on the trial court’s inherent ability to sanction. Id. ¶ 20.