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How far — to what parties — does a lawyer’s duty extend?

In today’s post, we relate for our California readers the key facts and material details of a judicial saga regarding a legal malpractice lawsuit that played out in another state. We agree with an online article’s view that the ultimate holding in the case spells a “significant decision,” and thus convey the court’s reasoning below.

Imagine a case where you are a trust beneficiary with a certain enumerated entitlement granted by the creator of the trust. You exercise that right.

Subsequent to your action, the trustee administering the trust — who objects to your action — files a lawsuit against you in an effort to override your assumed right. You prevail, with the litigation being ultimately dismissed.

You then file your own lawsuit against the trustee and his attorney. Regarding the latter, you argue that he was negligent and breached the fiduciary duty he owed to you as the trust’s beneficiary.

How would such a case turn out?

Ultimately, and following appeal, the beneficiary lost that case, with the court holding that an attorney owes no duty of care to a party who is adverse to a client.

The above-cited article notes that the case was narrowly decided in the sense that justices did not consider a matter where a trustee and beneficiary are not admittedly adverse to each other.

The case is interesting, given that some persons who are slated to benefit under a trust might reasonably assume that a retained attorney acting expressly on behalf of a trustee might be tasked to also act in good faith on behalf of a beneficiary.

That, though, is not always the case.

Questions and issues relating to client representation, fiduciary duty and related matters can be multi-faceted and complex. Any person seeking guidance in the important realm of attorney representation might reasonably want to contact a proven legal malpractice lawyer for guidance and, when necessary, aggressive legal representation.