What Type of Wrongdoing Triggers the “Crime-Fraud” Exception?

August 27, 2003

Every court declines to protect communications between clients and their lawyers in furtherance of future crimes. Most courts extend the same principle to common law fraud. Beyond that, courts disagree.

In For Your Ease Only, Inc. v. Calgon Carbon Corp., No. 02 C 7345, 2003 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 7131, at *14 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 24, 2003), the court declined to extend the crime-fraud principle to a company’s “inequitable conduct” in obtaining a patent.

Litigants hoping to rely on the crime-fraud exception to pierce an adversary’s privilege must become familiar with the type of wrongdoing to which it applies.