Following argument, the Court of Appeals recently affirmed summary judgment in favor of the firm's client, a prominent Southern California attorney, in a highly sensitive legal malpractice action. The plaintiff alleged that she established an attorney-client relationship with the firm's client as a result of a consultation regarding a potential claim against a governmental entity. The plaintiff further alleged that she lost the ability to pursue the entity, because the firm’s client allegedly breached a duty to timely file the claim on her behalf.
The firm argued that its client did not owe the plaintiff any duty, because an attorney-client relationship was never formed. The firm also argued that, had a duty existed, the plaintiff could not prove that its client breached his duty, or that his alleged breach was the cause of the plaintiff’s damages, because the claim against the entity was time barred before the consultation.
Following extensive oral argument, the trial court reversed its tentative ruling denying the motion finding that the plaintiff’s claim had accrued nearly a decade before she ever contacted the firm's client. As her claim against the governmental entity was time barred, the trial court concluded that the plaintiff could not prove the causation element of her legal malpractice claim and granted summary judgment in favor of the firm's client.
The plaintiff subsequently appealed relying upon a number of arguments that were not presented to the trial court. Following a de novo review, the California Court of Appeal affirmed the award of summary judgment in favor of the firm’s client, disregarding new arguments on appeal, and favoring the lower court's analysis. Partners Craig Mariam and Christina Vander Werf handled the matter.