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Ruiz vs Harbor View Community Association

"Legal Privileges" have been the subject of many lawsuits at the trial court and appellate level. In recent years, they’ve become more frequent in the homeowners association arena. For example, in Ruiz vs. Harbor View Community Association, decided by the California Court of Appeal in December 2005, a homeowner (who also happened to be a lawyer) sued his association for libel stemming from the denial of his architectural plans to rebuild his home. He claimed that letters written by the Association’s attorney claimed that the plaintiff had engaged in “unconscionable conduct in violation of his ethical duties as a lawyer.”

 

The Association immediately tried to get the case dismissed and made a motion with the court arguing that the "litigation privilege" applied. The Association claimed that even though no litigation was pending, the Association intended to file a lawsuit to enforce the architectural provisions. The Court rejected the application of the litigation privilege stating:

"The potential for litigation existed, of course, from the outset of the dispute between Plaintiffs and [the Association]. But when [the letter] was written, litigation had not been seriously considered, the dispute had not ripened into a proposed proceeding, and the parties were not negotiating under the actual threat of litigation."

Thus, the Association’s attempt to get the case dismissed based on the litigation privilege was rejected by the Court.​