Actor Justin Theroux’s feud with neighbors spawns yet another bizarre privilege ruling | McGuireWoods LLP


In December 2020, a New York court noted that leading actor Justin Theroux and his downstairs neighbors “don’t get along, to put it mildly.” Theroux v. Resnicow, 2020 NY Slip Op. 51489 (U), at * 2 (NY Sup. Ct. December 16, 2020). In that decision, the court rejected Theroux’s argument that he had a right to see emails his neighbor (a lawyer) had sent using the law firm’s server – because the firm’s personnel policy lawyers rejected any expectation of confidentiality. Surprisingly enough, the court found that the personnel policy only applied to the staff of the law firm (and not to its partners such as Theroux’s neighbor).

More recently, in Theroux v. Resnicow, # 154642/2017, 2021 NYLJ LEXIS 686 (NY Sup. Ct. July 13, 2021), the court gave Theroux a victory – in yet another bizarre ruling. The neighbor / defendant lawyer claimed privilege protection for his emails with the partner and attorney at his law firm. The court dismissed the request for privilege, noting that: (1) “[t]there is no formal indication of an attorney-client relationship “; (2)”[n]o the fees have been paid ”; and (3) no colleague “has ever introduced themselves on behalf of [defendant] in this action. ” Identifier. at 5. The court added the mysterious additional factor that “[n]or, for that matter, can this court imagine a state of the world in which [defendant’s law firm colleagues] could be the subject of a malpractice lawsuit. ” Identifier. The court therefore inexplicably rejected a request for privilege – because “a lawyer much more junior than [defendant] was just doing a specific task assigned to him. ” Identifier. at * 7-8. Although it acknowledges that several emails concerned the “defendant’s litigation strategy in this action”, the court did not deal with a possible claim relating to the work product (the defendant may not have one. raised). Identifier. at 8.

This Hollywood-style neighbor dispute shows no sign of abating. It will be interesting to see if this generates more surprising privilege decisions.

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