It is unfortunate that this case was not published, but it is still worth considering. The plaintiffs sued their lawyer who had drafted a Stock Purchase Agreement under which they sold their stock in a privately held company. When the company was sold, there was litigation pending. The parties negotiated an indemnification provision relating to the litigation. The court describes the facts in this brief summary:
In July 2011, respondent-attorney Joseph A. Turman prepared a stock purchase agreement for the sale of appellants James and Elizabeth Leach’s company, IDA of Moorhead Corporation, to SNAPS Holding Company. At the time of the sale, the Leaches were defending a wrongful-termination lawsuit brought by a former employee, Reed Danuser. The purchase agreement provided that SNAPS was aware of the litigation, and, subject to the indemnity provision in the purchase agreement, agreed to indemnify and pay the expenses and judgment associated with the lawsuit. The indemnification provision in the purchase agreement stated: “[SNAPS] shall hold and indemnify [the Leaches] harmless from the claims of Reed Danuser up to the sum of $100,000.00. In the event the amount necessary to resolve the issues with Reed Danuser exceed[s] $100,000.00 [the Leaches] shall be responsible for that portion.”
Unfortunately for the plaintiffs, the litigation resulted in a judgment exceeding $800,000. They then sued their attorney. The court dismissed the complaint holding that the plaintiffs clearly understood, and admitted they understood, that they were liable for any amount in excess of $100,000. Thus, they could not allege damages and had no lawsuit. Case dismissed. The dismissal was then affirmed by the Court of Appeals.
Comment: It is always very difficult to prove malpractice when the plaintiff signed an agreement that contains, in plain English, an accurate discussion of who owes what to whom. Courts don’t have sympathy for plaintiffs who fail to read their own agreement that they signed.