Sargent s Court Reporting

Sargents Court Reporting

Sargent v. Buckley Download as PDF Wordperfect 3 Back to Opinions page MAINE SUPREME JUDICIAL COURT Reporter of Decisions Decision: 1997 ME 159 Docket: Pen-96-338 Submitted on Briefs: March 14, 1997 Decided: July 21, 1997 Panel: WATHEN, C.J., and ROBERTS, GLASSMAN, CLIFFORD, and LIPEZ, JJ.

J. CAROLYN SARGENT v. PHILIP BUCKLEY, et al.

WATHEN, C.J. [¶1] Plaintiff, J. Carolyn Sargent, appeals from the judgment entered in the Superior Court (Penobscot County, Marsano, J.) granting defendants' motion to dismiss plaintiff's amended complaint pursuant to M.R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). The complaint was brought against an individual attorney, Philip Buckley, and his law firm, Rudman & Winchell. It alleges claims of fraud and breach of a fiduciary duty arising from defendants' representation of plaintiff's husband in her action for divorce. With respect to count I of the complaint, plaintiff argues that the court erred by ruling that she has failed to state a claim for fraud and erred by ruling that defendants had no duty to file a marital property list with the divorce court pursuant to M.R. Civ. P. 80(n). With respect to count II, plaintiff argues that the court erred in ruling that an attorney's breach of the fiduciary duty of loyalty to a former client is not actionable. We determine that count I is barred by the final judgment in Sargent v. Sargent, 677 A.2d 528 (Me. 1996) (Sargent II), {1} and that the court erred by dismissing count II. Thus, we vacate the judgment on count II. [¶2] The factual background and procedural history may be summarized as follows: Plaintiff and James Sargent were married in 1978. Before the marriage they entered into an ante-nuptial agreement providing that, in the event of a divorce, plaintiff would receive $5, 000 in lieu of alimony, support and property settlement rights. For the purposes of this agreement, plaintiff was represented by attorney Albert Winchell, now deceased, a partner of defendant Rudman & Winchell. The firm also represented plaintiff in other legal matters before and during the marriage to James. [¶3] The complaint alleges that in early 1989, plaintiff and James Sargent began the process of separation. James sought legal advice from defendant Philip Buckley, a partner of Rudman & Winchell, and plaintiff sought advice from a Lewiston attorney. Buckley knew that his partner Albert Winchell had represented plaintiff in negotiating the ante-nuptial agreement and that the firm had represented her in other matters. In April 1989, Buckley was advised by an associate in the firm that he should obtain written consent from plaintiff before representing James Sargent on the separation and divorce, because the firm represented plaintiff on the antenuptial agreement. Buckley never obtained such consent. A separation agreement was entered into in April, 1989. The agreement provided that plaintiff was to receive approximately one million dollars in cash and property and that the terms of the agreement were to be incorporated into the divorce decree. Neither plaintiff nor her attorney attended the subsequent divorce hearing. Buckley presented the separation agreement to the District Court at the hearing and the court issued a decree incorporating the terms of the agreement. [¶4] In 1992, plaintiff filed suit against James alleging that he fraudulently induced her to enter into the separation agreement by misrepresenting the value of the marital estate. While her appeal from summary judgment was pending, plaintiff brought the present action alleging that Buckley conspired with James in concealing and misrepresenting the value of the marital estate, and that Buckley breached the fiduciary duty of loyalty owed to plaintiff as a former client. Defendants' answer asserted that the complaint fails to state a claim on which relief can be granted, and that it is barred by res judicata, collateral estoppel, and the statute of limitations. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to M.R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), for failure to file within the statute of limitations and for failure to plead fraud with sufficient particularity pursuant to M.R. Civ. P. 9(b). Plaintiff filed a motion to amend her complaint to more particularly allege fraud and to include count II for the breach of a professional duty. After granting plaintiff's motion...

Source: www.courts.maine.gov
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