Tuesday, January 20, 2009
The Washington State Supreme Court affirmed the summary dismissal of a legal malpractice case brought against a lawyer who represented the plaintiff in a divorce. Claims were also dismissed against the lawyer's former firm notwithstanding the fact that the retainer agreement was on firm stationary. The claim was that the attorney had failed to preserve the client's beneficiary interest in her spouses life insurance and misadvised her of the effect of the divorce on her beneficiary status. The court notes that the lawyer did not represent the husband, who changed the benefciary designation prior to his death.
As to the former partners:
While Ms. Estep met with Mr. Hamilton and received his business card when Mr. Hamilton was a partner with Mr. Hackney and Mr. Carroll, she did not retain Mr. Hamilton until after the partnership dissolved. Ms. Estep points to no acts of Mr. Hackney or Mr. Carroll after August 7, 2003 that would lead a reasonable person to believe Mr. Hamilton was acting with the apparent authority of his former partners. Neither Mr. Carroll nor Mr. Hackney acted towards Ms. Estep to give Mr. Hamilton apparent authority use of the retainer form. Mr. Hamilton's office location is immaterial, considering that Ms. Estep fails to show any act by the former partners misleading her.