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Lawyer Is Accused of Failing To Document A Settlement Of Divorce Case

O’KELLYN v. Dawson, 2013 PA Super 25 – Pa: Superior Court 2013 – Google Scholar.

This is a case where a lawyer was accused of legal malpractice for failing to properly document a settlement of a divorce case. The settlement related to an award of maintenance. The parties agreed on a certain amount. The lawyer did not draft up the papers and obtain the signature of the other spouse. As a result, the court entered a maintenance award that was substantially greater than the agreed upon amount.

The client was unhappy because he was required to pay far more maintenance than he agreed to pay. He sued the lawyer and, after a jury trial, obtained an award of damages in the amount of $100,363.64.

The Superior Court affirmed the verdict and rejected the lawyer’s argument that the statute of limitations had run. The statute of limitations issue centered on when the client had reason to discover the alleged error of the lawyer. The court affirmed a ruling that the date of discovery of the alleged error by the lawyer was the date of the adverse divorce court decision awarding the maintenance.

It is very difficult to prove legal malpractice in divorce cases. Here, the legal malpractice was not a divorce issue. Rather it was a claim that the lawyer botched the settlement documentation, an error that could occur in any case.

Edward X. Clinton, Jr.

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