A Missouri appellate court has ruled that a legal malpractice claim survived the death of a client. In Roedder v. Callis, a client caused a serious motor vehicle accident, which left the other operator paralyzed. The victim sued the client for negligence and the client hired an attorney to defend him in the case. Following a trial, the court entered judgment against the client in the amount of almost $25 million.
The client then brought a legal malpractice suit against the attorney. Shortly after filing his complaint, the client died. His wife, acting as personal representative of his estate, successfully moved to substitute herself as plaintiff. The attorney then moved to dismiss the claim on the grounds that the claim abated with the client’s death. The trial court granted the motion and the wife appealed.
The appellate court reversed the dismissal and remanded the case. The court found that under Missouri law, causes of action arising from either personal injuries or damage to property, survive the injured party’s death and may be brought by a successor. The court determined that a legal malpractice claim could be construed as both a personal injury claim, because of the nature of the attorney-client relationship, and also a property damage claim, because of the failure to protect the client’s financial interest. The court thus found that the client’s claim survived his death and could be pursued by his wife.
Decision: Roedder v. Callis