Appellate Court Affirms Absolute Immunity Rule for Attorneys

June 28, 2011


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In a decision released on June 28, 2011, the Connecticut Appellate Court held that the doctrine of absolute immunity barred an action for fraud and intentional infliction of emotional distress brought against an attorney. In Simms v. Seaman, the plaintiff, Mr. Simms, sued the attorneys who had represented his wife for conduct which occurred in connection with judicial proceedings. Specifically, Mr. Simms alleged that his wife’s attorneys made representations to the court that their client was in a highly disadvantaged economic circumstance when they knew she had become the beneficiary of a substantial bequest from her uncle. Mr. Simms claimed that this wrongful concealment of financial information by his wife’s attorneys caused him to incur more than $400,000 in legal expenses, other costs and expenses as well as emotional distress.

Relying on Mozzochi v. Beck, 204 Conn. 490 (1987), which granted absolute immunity to attorneys who made allegedly defamatory statements in the course of judicial proceedings, the Appellate Court ruled that the doctrine of absolute immunity also protects attorneys from suits alleging fraud and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The court reasoned that there is a strong public policy that seeks to ensure that attorneys provide full and robust representation to their clients and that they provide their clients with unrestricted and undivided loyalty. Any cause of action or claim that might prohibit such representation must have built-in restraints to prevent unwarranted litigation. Unlike vexatious litigation or abuse of process claims, which have such built-in restraints and can be brought against attorneys, claims sounding in fraud, defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and intentional interference with contractual and beneficiary relations will be barred by the doctrine of absolute immunity.