Justia Professional Malpractice & Ethics Opinion Summaries

Sharkey v. Prescott

By
Plaintiff Virginia Sharkey appealed the dismissal of her legal malpractice claim against Defendant Attorney George Prescott. Plaintiff and her husband retained Attorney Prescott to prepare an estate plan. Mr. Prescott established a trust indenture that the Sharkeys executed in 1999. Subsequently, the Sharkeys signed a quitclaim deed, also prepared by Mr. Prescott, which conveyed two lots of land they owned to the trust. Plaintiff asserted that the trust was set up to care for the surviving spouse. Mr. Prescott sent Plaintiff a letter shortly thereafter, memorializing the actions he took on their behalf. Mr. Sharkey died in 2002. In 2003, Plaintiff wanted to sell one of the two lots conveyed to the trust. The local authority told Plaintiff that because both lots were conveyed to the trust, they effectively merged together, and could not be sold as she intended. In 2006, Plaintiff sought access to trust funds. The bank informed Plaintiff that she was not able to get access as she had intended. These two instances lead Plaintiff to believe that Mr. Prescott was negligent in the performance of his duties as her attorney. In 2009, Plaintiff brought suit against Mr. Prescott. Mr. Prescott moved to dismiss the case, arguing that Plaintiffâs claims against him were time-barred. The trial court dismissed Plaintiff's case as time barred. After a review of the case, the Supreme Court found that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment with regard to the letter Mr. Prescott sent memorializing the trust set-up. The Court reasoned that because Plaintiff claims she did not receive the letter, this created a "genuine issue of fact" that could not withstand a grant of summary judgment. For this, the Court reversed the trial courtâs decision, but affirmed it on all other respects. The case therefore, was remanded for further proceedings.