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Moss v. Parr Waddoups Brown Gee & Loveless

Supreme Court of Utah

July 6, 2012, Filed

No. 20100595

Opinion

 [**1160]  On Certiorari to the Utah Court of Appeals

Justice Durham, opinion of the Court:

INTRODUCTION

 [*P1]  The plaintiffs in this case brought suit against a law firm and its attorneys for their role in executing civil discovery orders. The orders authorized entry into plaintiffs' home to seize electronic files from plaintiffs' computer and other electronic devices. The plaintiffs raised several causes of action against the law firm and its attorneys, largely based on the theory that the execution of the civil discovery orders constituted an illegal warrantless search.

 [*P2]  The district court granted the defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings, and the court  [***2] of appeals affirmed. On certiorari review, we affirm on alternate grounds. We first hold that res judicata does not bar plaintiffs' claims. On an issue of first impression, we further hold that the judicial proceedings privilege extends to attorneys' conduct in representing their clients. As applied to this case, the privilege bars all of plaintiffs' claims. We therefore affirm the court of appeals' dismissal of plaintiffs' claims.

BACKGROUND

 [*P3]  ] "Because we are reviewing a grant of a motion for judgment on the pleadings, this court accepts the factual allegations in the complaint as true; we then consider such allegations and all reasonable inferences drawn therefrom in a light most favorable to the plaintiff[s]." Francis v. State, 2010 UT 62, ¶ 3 n.3, 248 P.3d 44 (internal quotation marks omitted).

 [*P4]  Jamal S. Yanaki worked for Iomed, Inc. until January 17, 2002. On April 9, Iomed filed a complaint in the Third District Court alleging, among other things, that Yanaki had misappropriated trade secrets and breached his noncompete agreement. The complaint sought to enjoin Yanaki from disclosing trade secrets, contacting Iomed's clients, or otherwise engaging in competition with Iomed.

 [*P5]  The day  [***3] after filing suit, Iomed filed an Ex Parte Motion for Order to Conduct Immediate Discovery  [**1161]  to Prevent the Destruction or Alteration of Evidence. Attorneys from Parr Waddoups Brown Gee & Loveless (Parr Brown) prepared the motion. On April 12, the district court granted the motion and issued an Order Allowing Immediate Discovery to Prevent the Destruction or Alteration of Evidence (Order). First, the Order instructed Yanaki "to preserve and maintain without alteration all documents, including electronic media, in his possession or control relating to Iomed or any proposed product that is similar in concept to products offered by Iomed or being developed by Iomed." Second, the Order directed the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office to execute the Order at Yanaki's home and to (1) "take custody of each of the . . . electronic storage media . . . in the possession, custody or control of" Yanaki, (2) "supervise the copying of information from the [electronic storage media] by the computer expert provided by Iomed and to return such copy to Yanaki," (3) "file the original [electronic files] under seal with the Court until they can be reviewed for privilege by Yanaki's counsel and analyzed by  [***4] computer experts for content and evidence of deleted files," and (4) "recover any Iomed confidential files in Yanaki's possession, custody or control . . . and to file those documents under seal with the Court." Finally, the Order described the process by which Yanaki could determine whether he had "objections that such files contain privileged, confidential or other information that would not be discoverable in this action." Upon completion of Yanaki's review, the Order provided that "Iomed, its counsel, and its experts . . . [would] have access to the [electronic files] to evaluate whether they provide evidence relevant to this matter and use in the prosecution of this matter."

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2012 UT 42 *; 285 P.3d 1157 **; 2012 Utah LEXIS 75 ***; 712 Utah Adv. Rep. 41

SUSAN I. MOSS and JAMAL S. YANAKI, Plaintiffs and Appellants, v. PARR WADDOUPS BROWN GEE & LOVELESS, CLARK WADDOUPS, JONATHAN O. HAFEN, JUSTIN P. MATKIN, and JOHN DOES I-XX, Defendants and Appellees.

Subsequent History: As Amended November 15, 2012.

Released for Publication October 5, 2012.

Prior History:  [***1] Third District, Salt Lake. The Honorable Douglas L. Cornaby. No. 050913371.

Moss v. Parr Waddoups Brown Gee & Loveless, 237 P.3d 899, 2010 UT App 170, 2010 Utah App. LEXIS 170 (2010)

CORE TERMS

judicial proceedings, plaintiffs', court of appeals, quotation, marks, district court, issue preclusion, course of judicial proceeding, res judicata, collaterally, claim preclusion, occurring, execute, sheriff's deputy, discovery order, legal process, electronic, alleges, orders, civil discovery, alterations, files, first amended complaint, tort claim, Defendants', pleadings, courts

Civil Procedure, Appeals, Standards of Review, General Overview, Judgments, Pretrial Judgments, Judgment on Pleadings, Preclusion of Judgments, Estoppel, Collateral Estoppel, Res Judicata, Governments, Courts, Judges, Judicial Immunity