Rob Laney and Claire Ryan Win Summary Judgment in Legal Malpractice Case

June 26, 2013

Ryan Ryan Deluca attorneys Rob Laney and Claire Ryan recently obtained a summary judgment in favor of their client, an attorney, in connection with a lawsuit brought against him by a former client.  The former client and her son had retained RRD’s client to pursue civil rights claims and other causes of action against a local municipality arising out of alleged police harassment and misconduct.  That lawsuit was unsuccessful, and the plaintiffs then filed a 15-count complaint against their former lawyer and others asserting theories of recovery including professional negligence, fraud, unfair trade practices, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

During the course of the litigation the court granted motions filed by RRD to dismiss all claims brought by the son and to strike several of the claims brought by the client’s former client.  The court then heard argument on RRD’s motion for summary judgment as to the only four remaining counts – malpractice, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty and negligent infliction of emotional distress.  The court found in favor of the firms’ client on all of these counts and entered judgment in his favor as a matter of law, terminating the plaintiffs’ lawsuit.

The court ruled that the malpractice action failed because it was barred by the applicable statute of limitations and because the plaintiff did not have an expert witness to testify as to the applicable standard of care or any alleged deviation from it.  The court also found that there was no breach of contract, and that the plaintiff’s claim in this regard was actually a tort claim that was also barred by the statute of limitations.  Further, the plaintiff’s fiduciary duty claim was legally insufficient because it was predicated on alleged acts and omissions that occurred after the plaintiff had terminated the attorney-client relationship with the firm’s client.  Finally, the court determined that the claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress was legally insufficient because the defendant enjoyed absolute immunity for most of the acts upon which it was based and other alleged acts were so remote in time that the claim was time-barred.