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In Lawlor v. North American Corporation of Illinois, 2012, IL 112530, the Illinois Supreme Court first recognized the intentional tort of intrusion upon seclusion. It then applied the tort in favor of a former employee against a former employer whose agents deceitfully investigated the employee in contemplation of future civil litigation. In Lawlor, the employer’s lawyer was also involved in the investigation. Under certain circumstances, under the Lawlor rationale, that lawyer could also be liable in tort to the former employee. Lawyer liability after Lawlor could be founded on either the intentional or unintentional acts of either the lawyer or the lawyer’s agent. Liability might fail, however, if there was a privacy waiver. The circumstances permitting lawyer liability for intrusion upon seclusion during pre-litigation civil claim investigations often include violations of the lawyer ethics rules employed for lawyer discipline. Because those harmed by lawyer intrusions seem far more likely to complain in their own civil suits than in lawyer disciplinary proceedings, in the future lawyer pre-suit civil claim investigations will increasingly be scrutinized under lawyer ethics rules in tort rather than disciplinary settings. The Lawlor rationale raises many questions about lawyer liability for private privacy intrusions during civil claim investigations, including questions about agency, deceit and waiver. After Lawlor, Illinois lawyers will investigate civil claims even more cautiously than in the past.

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Northern Illinois University Law Review

Suggested Citation

Jeffrey A. Parness, New Private Privacy Intrusions During Prelitigation Civil Claim Investigations, 33 N. Ill. U. L. Rev. 563 (2013).

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