Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Barcelo v. Elliot case brief

Barcelo v. Elliot case brief
923 S.W.2d 575 (Tex. 1996)

CASE SYNOPSIS: Plaintiff grandchildren sought review of the decision of the Court of Appeals for the First District of Texas, which held that defendant attorney preparing estate planning documents owed a duty only to his client, the testator or settlor, and not to third parties intended to benefit under the estate plan, in plaintiff's action for legal malpractice.

FACTS: Plaintiff grandchildren filed suit against defendant attorney for legal malpractice. The lower court granted defendant's summary judgment on grounds that defendant did not represent plaintiff and owed no professional duty to them. The court affirmed and stated that defendant owed a duty of care only to his client and not to third parties who may have been damaged by defendant's negligent representation of the client. The court held that without this privity barrier clients would lose control over the attorney-client relationship and attorneys would be subject to almost unlimited liability. The court held that it was unable to craft a rule that allowed a lawsuit to proceed where alleged malpractice caused a will or trust to fail in a manner that casted no real doubt on the testator's intentions, while prohibiting actions in other situations. The court affirmed the lower court's decision that defendant owed no professional duty of care to plaintiff under the will and reiterated Texas law that legal malpractice is governed by tort principles.

CONCLUSION: The court affirmed the order granting summary judgment in favor of defendant attorney because defendant owed no professional duty of care to plaintiff grandchildren who were beneficiaries under a will defendant drafted. The court held that plaintiff could not recover under a third party beneficiary theory because legal malpractice is founded in principles of tort.

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