In Wilkinson v. USAA Fed. Sav. Bank Trust Servs., an attorney hired by a trustee sued the trustee for defamation and breach of fiduciary duty because the trustee took a position in probate court that the attorney should not be paid. No. 14-13-00111-CV, 2014 Tex. App. LEXIS 7091 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] July 1, 2014, pet. denied). The trustee filed a motion for summary judgment on the basis of judicial privilege, which was granted. That privilege holds that any statement made in the trial of a case, by anyone, cannot constitute the basis for a defamation action or any other action. The court of appeals affirmed the summary judgment stating: “Because the essence of each of Wilkinson’s claims for defamation, fraud, and breach of fiduciary duty is that she suffered injury as a result of USAA’s and WKHB’s communication of allegedly false statements during a judicial proceeding, we conclude that the absolute privilege bars all of her tort claims.” Id.

INTERESTING NOTE: The facts of this case are unique and probably will not arise again. But the legal precedent is important. This case should similarly apply to any litigation between a trustee and a beneficiary—the trustee should be privileged to make unflattering statements about a beneficiary. For example, the trustee can say that a beneficiary did not receive a requested distribution because of a drug addiction without having to incur liability for defamation or breach of fiduciary duty.