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NC: Attorney Not Liable in Divorce Action

Summer v. Allran, 100 N.C.App. 182, 394 S.E.2d 689 (N.C.App. 1990)

NC: Underlying separation agreement

Student Contributor: Karen Dindayal

Facts: Plaintiff, Summer retained defendant William J. Allran to prepare a separation agreement with her ex-husband. Allran prepared three drafts of the agreement, and the parties signed the final draft on February 5, 1982.  A few months thereafter, Summer filed suit against her former husband for equitable distribution of marital property, temporary alimony and subsistence, and for the separation agreement to be set aside. The court dismissed the alimony and subsistence claims, and granted the claim for setting aside the separation agreement. In addition, Summer brought an action for legal malpractice against attorney Allran, alleging negligent legal representation, in that Summer lost alimony, reduced child support, and an inadequate share of the couple’s marital property.

The trial court granted Allran’s motion for directed verdict and Summer appealed.

Issue: Did the trial court err in granting defendants’ motion for directed verdict at the close of all the evidence?

Ruling: No. Allran was entitled to a directed verdict because Summer failed as a matter of law to show actionable negligence.

Lesson: In a legal malpractice action, a plaintiff must show actionable negligence by proving by the greater weight of the evidence that the attorney breached the duties owed his client, and that said negligence proximately caused plaintiff’s damages.

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Posted in: Family Law, North Carolina, Standard of Care