Morrison Mahoney Partner Michael Racette recently obtained a directed verdict in an attorney professional liability bench trial before Judge Doolin in Suffolk Superior Court.
Michael represented a law firm in defense of a M.G.L. c. 93A claim filed by its former client. The law firm assigned its right under a contingent fee agreement with the former client to collect the litigation costs it had expended on behalf of the former client in connection with its prior representation of the client in a federal court medical malpractice lawsuit. After the assignee filed a lawsuit against the former client to collect those costs, the former client sued the law firm claiming that the law firm had breached the contingent fee agreement and that the assignment was an unfair and deceptive trade practice because the law firm had not obtained the former client’s consent to that assignment. The former client argued that the assignment without that assent violated professional rules of ethics. Another judge agreed, as she dismissed the assignee’s complaint on the grounds that without that assent, he had no standing to sue for the litigation costs, and allowed the former client’s third-party breach of contract and 93A claims to continue against the law firm.
Following extensive efforts marked by multi-day depositions and motions to compel, summary judgment was achieved only to be partially reversed by the Appeals Court and remanded for trial on the 93A claim. After the close of the former client’s evidence, the judge granted a directed verdict in favor of the law firm. The former client’s 93A/176D claim against the law firm’s insurer had been stayed pending resolution of the claims against the law firm.