California Court Upholds Summary Judgment for Attorney in Legal Malpractice Claim


An appellate court in California has affirmed a motion for summary judgment granted in favor of an attorney in a legal malpractice action. In Lewellen v. Phillips, a woman alleged that her lawyer committed malpractice for inadequately representing her at a settlement conference in a property dispute. At the conference, the woman signed an agreement consenting to a 70/30 split of the proceeds from the sale of the property. A few days later, the woman decided she was no longer willing to settle. However, the court confirmed the settlement agreement and the appellate court upheld the trail court’s decision.

The woman then sued the attorney claiming he failed to obtain her informed consent and “badgered” her into signing the agreement. The attorney subsequently filed a motion for summary judgment, which the trial court granted. The woman then appealed the ruling.

The appellate court found that the attorney had adequately explained the settlement agreement to the woman, and also had presented her with various settlement options before the conference. The attorney had also informed the woman that he did not recommend the settlement, but she feared proceeding with a trial. In light of the evidence, the appellate court found that there was not a triable issue of fact and summary judgment for the attorney was appropriate.

Decision: Lewellen v. Phillips


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