Client v. Lawyer

A Client had hired a lawyer to represent her in her divorce proceedings. As part of the settlement of her divorce, the Client was to receive title to two house lots in a residential subdivision, which her husband was developing with a business partner. Despite know that the title to the lots was held by the husband and the partner, as trustees of a real estate trust, and that the divorce court had no power over the partner, the lawyer never obtained any agreement from the partner to transfer the lots to the wife. The lawyer also failed to perform a proper title search of the lots, which would have revealed that the partner had transferred the lots out of the trust to himself and granted a $500,000 mortgage on the property.

After the divorce was final, the partner refused to transfer the lots to the Client. She then sought help from the lawyer, whose firm discovered the transfer of title out of the trust for the first time. The lawyer then brought a lawsuit against the partner, and obtained title to the lots for the Client, but still had not discovered the mortgage.

Almost one year later, a relative of the Client informed her of a foreclosure notice he had seen for the property. The Client informed the lawyer, who then filed another lawsuit against the partner alleging fraud. However, they were unable to stop the foreclosure, and the lots were sold at auction, resulting in total loss of the property to the Client.

She then hired Boston legal malpractice attorney Keith L. Miller, to bring an action against the lawyer and his firm. The complaint alleged that the lawyer negligently (1) advised the client to accept title to jointly hold property in settlement of the divorce without obtaining any agreement from the partner to transfer the lots to her, (2) failed to discover the transfer or the mortgage prior to the divorce settlement.

The parties agreed to arbitrate the case. After a hearing, the arbitrator found in favor of the Client and awarded her damages in excess of $480,000.