A Louisiana appellate court has affirmed a summary judgment in favor of an attorney in a legal malpractice action. In Walker v. Harris, a client sued his former attorney alleging that the attorney negligently represented him in a personal injury action arising from a motor vehicle accident.
At one point in the proceedings, the client had failed to attend a medical examination, claiming he was not required to do so because a stay order had allegedly been entered in the matter. However, the trial court disagreed and found the client in contempt of its earlier order that he attend the examination. The court then entered a judgment for the defendants, dismissing all claims related to the client’s back injuries. The client then fired the attorney and retained new counsel.
The new attorney filed a motion to vacate the judgment, which the trial court denied. The attorney then filed two separate writs for supervisory review of the trial court’s denial. Both were rejected. The client elected not to pursue an appeal on the adverse judgment, settling instead with the personal injury defendants. The settlement agreement did not preserve any right for the client to seek an appeal or bring any further claim for the client’s back injuries.
The client then filed a legal malpractice action against the first attorney. The attorney moved for summary judgment, alleging that the malpractice claim was barred because the client’s settlement precluded the attorney from proving that he was not the cause of the entry of judgment. The trial court granted summary judgment for the attorney and the client appealed.
The appellate court affirmed, reasoning that a malpractice claim could not properly be based on a non-reviewable judgment. Further, the court ruled that the settlement agreement was in full satisfaction of all injuries resulting from the accident, which necessarily included a related legal malpractice claim. Therefore, the client was estopped from seeking additional recovery with the malpractice claim.
Decision: Walker v. Harris