Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Howell v. Joffe case brief

Howell v. Joffe case brief summary
483 F. Supp. 2d 659 (N.D. Ill. 2007)

Plaintiff former parishioner brought an action arising out of his alleged abuse by priest when he was a child. Defendants, a catholic church, two monsignors, and a diocese, moved for a protective order under Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(c), and moved to dismiss Counts V, VII, VIII, and X of the parishioner's complaint. Defendants, a law firm and an attorney, moved to dismiss Counts VII, VIII, and IX of the complaint.


  • The court found that the portion of the recording at issue memorializing a conversation between one of the monsignors and the attorney was protected by the attorney-client privilege because it was for the purpose of securing legal advice and services. 
  • The "primary purpose" of the conversation was to share information protected by the attorney-client privilege. 
  • The court also found that privilege was not waived. 
  • The monsignor and the attorney believed that the attorney had replaced the receiver on the telephone when they began their conversation; although that was an error, there was no reason to believe that it was not an innocent mistake. 
  • Even though there appeared to be some extraneous comments in the conversation, they were not unprotected. 
  • Because the conversation was privileged, the attorney and the monsignor did not intend for the parishioner to hear their conversation, and thus, the court's finding of privilege barred the parishioner's intentional infliction of emotional distress claim. 
  • The court dismissed the parishioner's negligent infliction of emotional distress claim because a claim that a cleric had breached his duty as a fiduciary to a parishioner was not actionable.

The court granted defendants' motion for a protective order as it related to a portion of a conversation between the attorney and one of the monsignors, dismissed the parishioner's intentional infliction of emotional distress claim, and otherwise granted defendants' motions to dismiss.

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