A New Jersey appellate court has affirmed a summary judgment in favor of an attorney in a legal malpractice action. In Goodwin v. O’Donnell.doc, a client sued his former attorney for negligently representing him in his divorce proceedings.
The attorney had recommended that the client pursue arbitration because it would be cheaper and more expeditious than litigation. The client, his former wife, and her attorney all entered into an agreement to arbitrate the matter. Before the arbitration took place, the client fired the attorney.
The arbitration eventually concluded 15 months later and cost the client over $200,000.00. The client then sued the attorney for malpractice. The attorney successfully moved for summary judgment and the client appealed.
The appellate court affirmed the ruling. The court held that the attorney’s advice was reasonable because arbitration is traditionally less expensive and takes less time than litigation. The Court also considered that all parties had agreed to arbitrate. The court further found that the attorney’s conduct was not the proximate cause of the client’s damages because the attorney had been fired before the arbitration took place. Therefore, any excessive cost or delay was out of his control.
Decision: Goodwin v. O’Donnell