Tuesday, March 31, 2009
No tort duty to referring attorney
Here is an interesting case that discusses an issue I had never seen before. An attorney, representing a plaintiff in a medical malpractice action, referred the matter to another attorney. The attorneys and the client agreed that the attorneys would represent the client as co-counsel, with the attorney to whom the matter was referred having primary responsibility for representing the client, and the referring attorney rendering services if requested by the other attorney. The attorneys agreed to split any contingency fee 50-50. Ultimately, the client settled the claim, on advice of the attorney to whom the matter had been referred, for less than anticipated by the referring counsel. Referring counsel then sued co-counsel (the one to whom he had referred the case in the first place), asserting negligence, fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, intentional interference with contract, and breach of contract. The Court held that defendant co-counsel owed no tort duty to referring counsel, co-counsel fulfilled the contractual obligation between counsel, and co-counsel could not tortiously interfere with a contract to which co-counsel was a party. The opinion can be found here. Thanks to LegalProfession Blog for the information.