Law clerk cannot sue employer for defamation or breach of confidentiality
Donald Andrews attempted to sue the Fixel Law Offices for defamation and breach of confidentiality. A law clerk for the firm, Andrews apparently sought advice about pending issues with his law school admission and a child custody dispute. The firm later terminated his employment and one of the lawyers wrote to the Thomas Cooley Law School "voicing her concerns" about Andrews.
Andrews argued that the letter to the Dean was defamatory because it suggested he had a diagnosable medical condition described as "sociopathic and/or delusional tendencies." He also argued that the letter disclosed material that was confidential because it was divulged in the course of an attorney-client relationship wherein he sought guidance as part of his clerkship relationship.
The trial judge granted the law firm summary disposition and the Court of Appeals upheld the outcome. It ruled that however rude and offensive the employer's letter, it merely expressed rhetorical hyperbole and subjective opinion. The appellate judges also concluded that no attorney-client relationship existed and that the gratuitous "advice" offered to Andrews did not implicate a fiduciary relationship or legal claim.