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Omission of material contract clause leads to malpractice claim

It’s true of course, that legal malpractice claims in California and nationally often usher forth businesses as well as individual clients as plaintiffs alleging substandard legal performance leading directly to personal injury.

The following story is a prime example of that.

The tale involves Syracuse University and the university’s long-time favorite law firm. Notwithstanding the firm’s frequent work done on behalf of Syracuse, the university recently filed a legal malpractice claim contending that lawyers representing it in a business deal “violated ethical rules, professional standards and fiduciary duties.” That alleged breach of duty, Syracuse states, opened it up to liability that should never have existed and, additionally, closed a remedy avenue that it would have been able to pursue but for the firm’s malpractice.

In a nutshell, here’s what happened: While representing Syracuse in a real estate deal with a developer, the firm failed to include a “time is of the essence” clause in a key contract that would have given Syracuse license to terminate the project in the event that the developer was tardy in obtaining project financing.

In fact, the project was delayed, and Syracuse did terminate the contract. That in turn brought a lawsuit from the developer alleging that Syracuse was the prime catalyst for delay as well as being primarily responsible for failed financing.

The university argues that it is wrongly tagged as a defendant, and that the suit against it should be dismissed. And it argues with equal force that all its current problems relate solely to the law firm’s negligence in inserting standard “time is of the essence” language in its contract with the developer.

Several articles discussing the litigation do not provide details regarding damages being sought by the university.