Commercial Litigation and Arbitration

Retainer Agreement Conclusively Establishes Scope of Representation and Duty in Legal Malpractice Action in New York

From Hallman v. Kantor, 72 A.D.3d 895 (2d Dept. 2010):

The defendants submitted a retainer agreement reflecting that the plaintiff "understood, accepted and agreed" that the "scope of" their "engagement" was "to represent" her as a co-executor of her deceased father's estate. This documentary evidence conclusively established a defense to the plaintiff's claims of malpractice. The plaintiff alleged that she was the subject of a pending lawsuit, in effect, to recover sums of money due under certain notes she executed before her father died, and that the defendants committed legal malpractice by, inter alia, failing to speak with her "about the circumstances surrounding [her] signing of [those] notes," and failing to "question[ ]" their "validity." However, the documentary evidence demonstrated that the plaintiff's individual liability on the notes was a matter outside of the scope of the defendants' representation of the plaintiff in her capacity as co-executor of the estate (see CPLR 3211[a][1]; AmBase Corp. v Davis Polk & Wardwell, 8 NY3d 428, 435, 866 N.E.2d 1033, 834 N.Y.S.2d 705; DeNatale v Santangelo, 65 AD3d 1006, 1007, 884 N.Y.S.2d 868; Turner v Irving Finkelstein & Meirowitz, LLP, 61 AD3d 849, 850, 879 N.Y.S.2d 145).

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