Kaseberg v. Davis Wright Tremaine, LLP

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Tort Law
  • Date Filed: 11-10-2011
  • Case #: S059154
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Walters, J. for the Court
  • Full Text Opinion

A jury could find that when a lawyer informs their client that a breach of contract occurred, an objectively reasonable person would not suspect their attorney committed legal malpractice, thus causing their client's damages.

In 2002 an attorney for Davis Wright Tremaine (DWT), negotiated a contract on behalf of Kaseberg. Kaseberg’s attorney knew that removal of a lien on his client’s property by a particular date was important to his plans to plant a crop of wheat. Kaseberg’s attorney drafted an agreement between his client and the lien holder to remove the lien by a certain date. However, in the agreement the date the lien was to be removed was not included. Later, the lien was not removed by the agreed upon date and Kaseberg incurred $269,414.51 in damages. DWT informed Kaseberg that the other side breached the contract, and that a suit could be brought to recover damages. However, in November 2007 a different attorney advised Kaseberg that DWT failed to include terms that would have enforced the removal of the lien by the particular time. In defending Kaseberg’s malpractice suit, DWT argued that the two-year statute of limitations had passed. The Oregon Supreme Court reversed the trial court and Court of Appeals grant of summary judgment in favor of DWT. Applying the discovery rule, the Court determined that a jury could conclude that Kaseberg’s belief in his attorney’s advice was objectively reasonable. Specifically, a person in a relationship of trust – such an attorney and a client – should be able to rely on their attorney’s advice that a breach of contract occurred. Reversed and remanded.

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