Lawyers can be sued for defamatory statements in a press release issued at the time a lawsuit was filed if the release may have created a false impression about the nature and severity of the allegations in the court papers, a federal judge has ruled.

In his 40-page opinion in Computer Aid Inc. v. Hewlett Packard Co., U.S. District Judge Franklin S. Van Antwerpen refused to dismiss counterclaims against the law firm of Anderson Kill Olick & Oshinsky after finding that a jury could decide its press release violated the “fair report” privilege that lawyers normally enjoy.