Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Lucas v. Hamm case brief

Lucas v. Hamm case brief summary
364 P.2d 685 (1961)


CASE SYNOPSIS
Plaintiffs, beneficiaries under a will, appealed a judgment of dismissal from the Superior Court of the City and County of San Francisco (California) in an action against attorney for damages for alleged negligence in preparation of a will.

CASE FACTS
Plaintiffs, beneficiaries under a will, brought this action against defendant attorney. Defendant prepared a will by which plaintiffs were designated as beneficiaries of a trust provided for in the will. Defendant prepared testamentary instruments containing phraseology that was invalid by virtue of Cal. Civ. Code § 715.2 and former §§ 715.1 and 716 relating to restraints on alienation and the rule against perpetuities. As a result, plaintiffs received a smaller share of the estate.

DISCUSSION

  • The court held the lack of privity between plaintiffs and defendant did not preclude an action in tort against defendant. 
  • Intended beneficiaries of a will who lost their testamentary rights because of attorney's failure to properly prepare a will could recover as third-party beneficiaries. 
  • However, defendant was not liable for the mistake in this case because he was in error as to a question of law on which well-informed lawyers could entertain reasonable doubt.
CONCLUSION
Court affirmed judgment of dismissal where lack of privity between plaintiffs and defendant did not preclude action against defendant, but defendant was not liable for being in error as to a question of law on which well-informed lawyers could entertain reasonable doubt.

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