August 18, 2009
Former Client's Intentional Wrongdoing Bars Malpractice Action
A case decided today by the North Carolina Court of Appeals affirms the grant of summary judgment to the defendant-lawyer in a legal malpractice case. The plaintiff in the malpractice case had falsely claimed that he had a valid lease to have a billboard on the property of another. The lawyer had defended the former client in a defamation case that led to a large adverse judgment, which was collected. The liar then sued his lawyer.
The court concluded that the plaintiff "well knew" that he had no lease but "continued to assert his non-existent interests, giving rise to his liability." While the "[p]laintiff persuasively argues that the [lawyer] violated several [state bar ethics rules]...it is not appropriate to address the attorney's misconduct in an action for malpractice." Rather, the client's intentional wrongdoing in the underlying case barred a malpractice cause of action against the lawyer. (Mike Frisch)
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