Mist floating over placid lake in a northwest forest

The Rundle Law Firm

Q: Are there other kinds of claims against lawyers besides negligence claims?

     A. Contracts

In most legal malpractice cases, the standard of care and the client's claim for breach of that standard are imposed by the law of negligence. Contract claims (written or oral, express of implied) are somewhat unusual in actions against attorneys based on their performance, and often subject to dismissal. When such claims are asserted, sometimes it is because the client wishes to avoid the shorter time limitations period for bringing suit for negligence, seeking instead to save the claim based on the longer statute of limitations for contract claims.

A client may bring a contract claim against his/her lawyer when the lawyer promised a specific result and failed. So for instance, a former client might sue a former lawyer who agreed to accept a $10,000 flat fee in exchange for which the lawyer promises to vacate a judgment against the client, or remove a lien, etc. Lawyers are usually careful to avoid making such promises, however.

     B. Breach of fiduciary duties & fraud

Breach of fiduciary duty claims and fraud are available in actions against attorneys. A negligence claim for malpractice generally focuses on competence, whereas claims for breach of fiduciary duty invokes duties of loyalty and honesty. For instance, a client may pursue a claim for breach of fiduciary duty against his or her lawyer based on conflicts of interest, as the appropriate remedy is not limited to a disciplinary proceedings. Tydeman v. Flaherty, 126 Or App 180, 868 P2d 765 (1994).

These articles are for informational purposes only. An attorney-client relationship is not established with this firm without express written agreement. If you have an actual legal matter, you should not rely on the statements or conclusion in these articles, but instead should seek legal representation.