Wednesday, September 26, 2007
An attorney appealed a judgment dismissing his lawsuit against two attorneys and their law firms for prosecuting an action against him without probable cause and with an improper purpose. The underlying federal lawsuit alleged that the attorney had been part of a scheme to defraud their client. Summary judgment was granted in this matter on the ground that the plaintiff had failed to demonstrate that the defendants lacked probable cause to sue.
On appeal, the Oregon Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the case. The court held that the element of favorable termination of the initial suit (an essential element of the claim) was "not well suited to summary judgment." The original suit had been settled but "the record gave rise to competing inferences regarding defendants' motivations for settling the federal action, thus precluding summary judgment." Further, the plaintiff was permitted to amend his complaint to request punitive damages as to some, but not all, of the defendants.