Sunday, November 24, 2013

Lawlis v. Kightlinger & Gray case brief

Lawlis v. Kightlinger & Gray case brief summary
562 N.E.2d 435 (1990)


CASE SYNOPSIS
Plaintiff, former partner, appealed the judgment of the Shelby Circuit Court (Indiana) which entered summary judgment in favor of defendant, law partnership, ruling that there were no genuine issues as to whether defendant breached the partnership agreement, or breached a fiduciary duty to plaintiff, or was guilty of constructive fraud, or breached an oral contract, in an action for wrongful expulsion from the partnership.

CASE FACTS
Plaintiff, former partner, was expelled from defendant, law partnership, due to alcoholism. He filed an action for wrongful expulsion, alleging that defendant breached the partnership agreement, breached a fiduciary duty to him, committed constructive fraud against him, and breached an oral contract to restore him to partnership status if he quit drinking. The trial court entered summary judgment in favor of defendant.

DISCUSSION

  • On appeal, the court affirmed the judgment dismissing plaintiff's action, holding that plaintiff had no claim for damages for wrongful expulsion under Ind. Code § 23-4-1-18(a)(2) because he remained a senior partner until he was expelled by vote of the partners in accordance with the partnership agreement. 
  • The court further held that plaintiff had no claim for breach of fiduciary duty because the facts showed the firm had no "predatory purpose" in expelling him, that there was no constructive fraud because the facts showed defendant acted in good faith, and that defendant violated no oral agreement to restore plaintiff to partner status because he was never downgraded from that status and he would have waived any claim for damages by his own acquiescence.

CONCLUSION
The court affirmed the judgment in favor of defendant, law partnership, holding that plaintiff, former partner, had no statutory claim for damages for wrongful expulsion because he was expelled in accordance with the partnership agreement, that the facts showed that defendant acted in good faith, and that defendant violated no oral agreement to restore plaintiff to partner status because he was never downgraded from that status.

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