High court rules on client-attorney relationship

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2007
Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
The Indiana Supreme Court today ruled on a case involving an attorney-client relationship, overturning the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the attorney.

In Ronald D. Liggett, d/b/a Liggett Construction Company v. Dean A. and Elisabeth Young, No. 38S0-0703-CV-80, Liggett appealed the trial court ruling in a contract dispute with the Youngs. At the time the Youngs hired Liggett to build their home, Dean Young worked as attorney for Liggett on an unrelated matter.

Liggett initiated a third-party complaint against the Youngs when a supplier of bricks and materials sued Liggett. In turn, the Youngs brought a counterclaim against Liggett seeking damages for allegedly negligent and untimely completion of work under the building contract.

The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the Youngs.

At a later hearing initiated by Liggett, the trial court considered a motion to reconsider the previous ruling. This time, the trial court didn't address the fact Young acted as Liggett's attorney during the drafting of the contract. Dean Young had made some changes to the contract, which was allowed as long as an attorney did the work.

The court affirmed the previous order, as did the Court of Appeals.

At issue is whether Dean Young violated Professional Conduct Rule 1.8 and the Preamble of the Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct by hiring Liggett as his homebuilder and making changes to the standard contract.

The evidence from the trial court doesn't show that Dean Young's transaction with Liggett was fair and honest or was a standard commercial transaction, as is required under Prof. Con. R. 1.8, wrote Justice Brent Dickson. Liggett asserted that Rule 1.8(a) rendered the contract void because Dean Young served as his attorney at the time the contract was entered into.

Of significance in this case, Justice Dickson wrote, is that Liggett's claims against the Youngs are for materials and labor not included in the original base contract but were from additional items Liggett claimed were performed at the Youngs' request. Dean Young inserted language into the contract that allowed changes to be made.

The Supreme Court concluded the evidence on the Youngs' motion for partial summary judgment did not affirmatively establish an absence of an issue of material fact that the building contract transaction was fair and honest. Also, there was nothing to show the transaction should, as a matter of law, be treated as a standard commercial transaction to which common law presumption did not apply.

The Youngs are not entitled to summary judgment on their claims or Liggett's claims against them. The court remanded the matter to the trial court to resolve the remaining claims of both parties.

Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.