Mary Kennedy was an attorney practicing law in Waterloo. She represented Thomas Richmond in a custody action. Richmond was an inmate at the Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison at the time, and Kennedy was dating another inmate residing at the penitentiary. At some point, their attorney-client relationship deteriorated. Shortly after Richmond complained to Kennedy about her representation, he was assaulted in the penitentiary by Kennedy’s boyfriend.
Within a few days, Kennedy withdrew from representing Richmond.
Richmond then filed a lawsuit against Kennedy alleging she violated her constituted negligence, and resulted in his physical injury. Richard Zimmermann represented Richmond in the lawsuit. After the petition was filed with the district court, Zimmermann was contacted by a reporter for The Courier, a Waterloo newspaper. Following the interview, an article appeared in The Courier which included the following:
Richard Zimmermann, an Iowa City attorney who is representing Richmond, said Kennedy’s alleged actions were a “breach of her ethical duties and negligent.” … Richmond is seeking damages to compensate him for physical injuries … [t]he amount [of damages] would be determined by a jury, Zimmermann said.
Kennedy subsequently filed a defamation action against Zimmermann based on the statements made to the reporter during the course of the interview. The district court dismissed Kennedy’s suit but the Iowa Supreme Court reversed setting a precedent that attorneys who make public statements to news organizations similar to the claims made a lawsuit they have filed, they are not shielded from defamation claims.