TORTS : Goodman v. Goldberg & Simpson, P.S.C. (COA 10/16/2009)

Goodman v. Goldberg & Simpson, P.S.C.
2008-CA-000921 10/16/09 2009 WL 3321024 Rehearing Pending
Opinion by Senior Judge Harris; Judges Acree and Lambert concurred.

The Court affirmed a summary judgment granted in favor of lawyers (including appellant’s brother) and a law firm and dismissed appellant’s tort claims against them related to the distribution of assets from two estates. The Court held that the trial court correctly concluded that there were no genuine issues of material fact. First, even if appellant’s brother made alleged representations as to the division of their father’s estate, appellant provided no evidence that he relied upon the representations to his detriment other than to state that he would have initiated criminal proceedings against the father. The court next held that there was no evidence of a contract between appellant and the father so that his claim of intentional interference with contract must fail. The Court next held that the father did not owe appellant a fiduciary duty as an intended beneficiary of the mother’s estate so that his claim for aiding and abetting breach of fiduciary duty failed as a matter of law. The Court next held that there was no concrete evidence to establish that the brother committed any wrongdoing against appellant and it was the father’s prerogative to dispose of his estate as he saw fit. Therefore, the claim for the tort of outrage must fail. The Court next held that because there was no attorney-client relationship between the brothers, the claim of legal malpractice must fail. The Court next held that there was no evidence that the law firm or the attorney who drafted the father’s will had any knowledge of any purported agreement as to the distribution of assets and moreover, they owed a fiduciary duty to the father and therefore, the claim for breach of fiduciary duty and malpractice as to them must fail. The Court next held that the law firm did not owe a duty to appellant as an intended third-party beneficiary of the father’s will. The Court finally held that the trial court did not prematurely enter summary judgment. Appellees moved for summary judgment after two years after which the trial court allowed another six months of discovery, the record was voluminous, appellant had the opportunity to and did supplement the record, and appellant did not specify what significant information he was not able to obtain through discovery.

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