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Ronan
Ronan, Solicitor
Category: Republic of Ireland Law
Satisfied Customers: 2245
Experience:  B. Corp Law, Ll.B. Dip Comm Prop. In general practice for more then 6 years
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In relation to defamation, if a letter is sent to me by a solicitor

Customer Question

In relation to defamation, if a letter is sent to me by a solicitor on behalf of a client, with defamatory content therein, and I must share it with my client as I act as their estate agent, should the solicitor sending the correspondence have known that I may have to share the letter with my client under the terms of the regulatory "letter of engagement" I have with my client?
I did my best not to share the letter and to actually inform my clients of something the solicitor sending the letter wrote, (which in my opinion is something they would have required to be informed on), in another paragraph in the letter, without actually sharing the letter with them.
However, my client's solicitor has requested to see the correspondence containing the paragraph above, which I had sent to them, word for word, as written by the sending solicitor. I feel that my loss is guaranteed now, either by my clients loosing faith in me due to my not sharing the letter, or, by losing the clients if I do share the letter and they attribute any truth to what I feel is defamatory content in the letter.
Do I have a case against the sending solicitor and / or his client, due to the fact that the solicitor should be well aware that I may have to share correspondence with my client, especially as the same letter contains a paragraph which could be of specific interest to my clients and merited sharing in and of itself?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Republic of Ireland Law
Expert:  Ronan replied 2 years ago.
No there is no basis for him knowing what agreement you have engaged with your client on. A requirement of any defamation proceedings is that there is publication to someone other then the person who is being defamed. The solicitor wrote the letter to you and you choose whether under a contractual obligation or otherwise to share that with your client. It is in fact you have published it rather then the solicitor. In addition to this, the content of the letter from the solicitor would benefit from qualified privilege in relation to any potential defamatory content
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Hi Ronan,A) What is "qualified privilege" exactly? Could I pursue his client then?B) Is the basis not the fact that he is a solicitor and that it would be reasonable to expect that he would be aware that under the Property Services Regulation Act 2011, a sales agent must have in place an appropriate "Letter of Engagement", the texts of which are publicly available and can bee seen to require me to share communication with prospective purchasers? It seems to me that under those regulations, an agent such as myself cannot legally discuss with someone, such as a solicitor, any aspect of a property or offer it for sale, without the appropriate paperwork in place with the vendor and further, with my having discussed the matter previously with his client, he should either assume that I am compliant with the law and therefore have an obligation to share information, or not deal with me at all if he felt I didn't have such an agreement in place? Surely, by writing to me he, as a legal professional with a knowledge of this recent Act, is tacitly acknowledging that it is at least probable that I am compliant with the regulations and therefore likely to have to share the information? (It would seem that there is a loophole here that could benefit buyers in the future. Send something outrageous to an auctioneer in a letter and you immediately put him in a compromised position. He either supresses the communication contrary to regulation or shares it and creates a doubt in the vendor's mind of the agent's suitability for the task. That surely cannot be right.)It may be me who actually published, but it is reasonable, in my view, to expect that he should have known of my prior legal obligations to share info, as he is a legal professional.Your first sentence "No there is no basis for him knowing what agreement you have engaged with your client on" would seem to suggest that if there was a basis for him knowing (whatever that basis is) that I might have a case?I can tell you, this issue has now caused me actual loss.Thanks.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Can this all be kept private and not displayed for all to see? Thanks.
Expert:  Ronan replied 2 years ago.
Qualified privilege attaches to communications where the informant has a legal, moral or social duty to communicate the information and the recipient has a similar duty to receive it. For example, a person may write to an employer making allegations of dishonesty or incompetence against an employee. If the allegations are made in good faith, even if they are factually wrong, the communication is not actionable. This privilege is defeated by proof of malice No you couldn't pursue the client as they didn't write the letter The solicitor has no duty to inquire as to the terms of your engagement nor is he a party to such your contract with the clients. I don't believe a court would find your argument in relation to the Property Services Regulation Act acceptable and the solicitors duty to know . A cursory look over the pro forma agreement seem to indicate that you don't have to communicate all matters to client. It does refer to certain information you have to give them re offers, conflicts of interest etc. and your requirement to keep proper records of everything. However I cannot see anything that requires you to furnish all communications to client. Furthermore even if you had to give over this particular document as it had some relevant to the business at hand, you would be entitled to redact the alleged defamation if not relevant to the sale. Maybe I have missed the relevant provision?? Your "Outrageous argument" does not hold water either as this would incorporate an element of malice which would defeat qualified privilege Ultimately you are missing a vital ingredient to any defamation action. Publication by the solicitor. He furnished the letter to you and you ultimately published it
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Thank you. Your response is quite interesting. I suppose I would see the fact that some of the letter would be redacted as potentially doing damage in and of itself.