Litigation Privilege Bars Claim Against Lawyers

The Hawaii Supreme Court has ruled that two law firms who represented a party in a business dispute cannot be sued by the adversary party for intentional interference with contractual relations.

Plaintiff had a dispute with a business partner – the two were general partners of a partnership that ran a hotel.  The defendant law firms represented the non-plaintiff partner.  The dispute ended up in arbitration, and Plaintiff demanded to see certain books and records of the hotel partnership.  The law firms took possession of those documents, and Plaintiff sued them for interfering with its right to access to the books and records.  The law firms said, inter alia, that the suit was barred by the litigation privilege.

The Court did a nice review of the history of the litigation privilege and ruled that the lawyer’s conduct was protected by the privilege.  The Court explained that the fact that the arbitration process was temporarily stayed at the time the dispute arose  was immaterial.

The case is Kahala Royal Corporation v. Goodsill, Anderson, Quinn and Stiffil,  Nos. 26669 and 26670  (Jan. 7, 2007).  Read it here.

Like you, I have read a lot of appellate court opinions over the years but this one has a feature I have never seen before.  Not only did each of the justices sign the opinion, but each of them signed it without the presence of the traditional signature line for each of the justices.  I assume that is some sort of tradition of the Hawaii Supreme Court.  I like it.