St. Denis & Davey, P.A.

Legal Malpractice Issues

Court upholds plaintiff’s right to sue divorce attorney

| Oct 10, 2019 | Legal Malpractice Law |

An attorney hired to represent someone in Florida owes fiduciary duties to the client. According to Chron, one of these duties is confidentiality. In other words, an attorney generally cannot share information about a client except in two specific circumstances: If the breach is in the client’s interest, or if the client gives permission. Sharing confidential information about a client when neither of these conditions is present usually represents a breach of the attorney’s fiduciary duty to the client. 

Bloomberg Law recently reported on the case of a divorce attorney representing a woman who lives in Idaho. The attorney allegedly showed the client’s then-husband an email that she had written to the attorney. When she found out about it, the woman sued the attorney for breach of fiduciary duty. In the email, the woman reportedly claimed that, at a recent divorce mediation conference, the attorney had not represented her adequately. 

A district court dismissed the case, agreeing with the attorney’s assertion that his former client had attempted to avoid trying to prove damages by characterizing the cause of action not as legal malpractice but as a breach of fiduciary duty. The case went on to the Idaho Supreme Court, which decided that the woman’s claim for breach of fiduciary duty was acceptable because the woman sought an equitable remedy. In other words, she sought only the fees that she paid the attorney initially to represent her during divorce mediation. 

The state Supreme Court issued its ruling on September 10th that, to deter attorneys’ disloyalty to clients, it is acceptable for a former client to seek an equitable remedy for a breach of fiduciary duty.