RRD Partner Rob Laney Wins Dismissal of Legal Malpractice Case

July 24, 2014

RRD partner Rob Laney recently obtained a dismissal of a legal malpractice case filed against his client.  The plaintiff lived in the first floor of a house owned by his elderly mother, who lived on the second floor.  In June 2009, the mother was removed from her apartment after the local police responded to a report from a Meals-on-Wheels employee that she had fallen and her apartment was not habitable.  She was taken to the hospital and then admitted to a long term assisted living facility two days later.  In order to get his mother admitted, the plaintiff signed an admission agreement acknowledging his status as a Responsible Person and agreeing to assist with his mother’s application for Medicaid benefits. 

Therafter, the plaintiff asked the VA for guidance in assisting with applying for Medicaid benefits.  He was referred to RRD’s client, and the mother eventually signed a retainer agreement with the client for help in preparing and filing the Medicaid application.  RRD’s client did, in fact, file a Medicaid Benefits Application on the mother’s behalf.  In addition, based on the son’s claim that he had been his mother’s caretaker for more than two years, RRD’s client recommended that the mother quitclaim the house to him. 

Unfortunately, the Department of Social Services subsequently determined that the transfer of the house was made so that the mother could become eligible for Medicaid Benefits and that the son did not qualify as a caretaker.  As a result, the DSS imposed a penalty period during which the mother was not eligible for Medicaid Benefits.  The son then filed suit against RRD’s client, claiming that the client’s negligence led to this adverse determination and his damages, which included a significant debt owed to the assisted living facility.

Rob successfully argued that the son lacked standing to sue because he did not ever have an attorney-client relationship with RRD’s client.  In addition, the plaintiff’s claim that the complaint could be read to assert a claim of negligent misrepresentation was not accurate, because the plaintiff could not point to any statement or representation by the lawyer that was false or misleading. 

After extensive briefing and two oral arguments the Superior Court agreed, and dismissed all claims against RRD’s client.