Cheney v. Flood, NO. 13-P-259: Massachusetts Appellate Court Affirms Dismissal of Legal Malpractice Action Against Administrator of Estate

The Massachusetts Appeals Court, which is located in Boston, has affirmed the dismissal of a legal malpractice action and summary judgment of a related quantum meruit claim. A woman provided care to her stepfather during the last years of his life. She had hoped that she and her children would be named sole or principal beneficiaries of her stepfather’s estate. However, when he died she was not compensated for her services.

The woman then sued the attorney who served as administrator of the estate for legal malpractice alleging that he negligently failed to name her as primary beneficiary. She also sought payment from her stepfather’s estate for the value of her services. The attorney moved to dismiss both counts on the basis that the woman failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The court allowed the attorney’s motion, but permitted the woman to amend her complaint to re-plead her quantum meruit count. She amended her complaint and the attorney successfully moved for summary judgment. The woman appealed from the summary judgment ruling only.

The appeals court found that, although she had included arguments in her appellate brief with respect to the dismissal of her malpractice count, she had waived her appellate rights for failing to include these issues in her notice of appeal. Nevertheless, the court held that the dismissal was proper because she could not prove that an attorney-client relationship existed between her and the attorney.

The appeals court also affirmed the summary judgment for the attorney on the quantum meruit count. In order to recover under that theory, there must be an underlying agreement between the parties. The court held that woman’s hope and expectation that she would be compensated did not contractually obligate the stepfather to pay her. Therefore, summary judgment was appropriate.

Decision: Cheney v. Flood

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