An Indianapolis attorney being sued by a former client in a post-conviction relief case faced a reversal Monday after the Indiana Court of Appeals found that the client’s complaint alleging violations of certain canons of the Rules of Professional Conduct did not deprive the trial court of jurisdiction over the case.
After Gregory Jacob paid Indianapolis attorney Dylan Vigh a $10,000 retainer, and after roughly four years of motions to continue a final hearing on Jacob’s petition for post-conviction relief, Vigh withdrew as Jacob’s counsel. Since that point, no hearing has been held on Jacob’s PCR petition and Vigh has not returned any of the paid retainer to his former client.
Thus, Jacob filed a verified complaint against Vigh, asserting the attorney did not perform any work on his behalf and alleging fraud, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty and “violation of the rules of professional conduct[.]”
Following two extensions of time to answer or otherwise plead, Vigh moved to dismiss Jacob’s complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted under Trial Rule 12(B)(6). Vigh asserted, among other things, that the trial court “has no jurisdiction to adjudicate the claims made by [Jacob] since they are based on finding that [Vigh] purportedly violated the RPC,” and that Jacob’s claim that Vigh “impermissibly withdrew as his legal counsel” is a collateral attack barred under claim preclusion.
The Marion Superior Court granted Vigh’s motion and dismissed Jacob’s complaint, later denying Jacob’s motion to correct error.
However, the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed in Gregory Jacob v. Dylan Vigh, 19A-CT-2719, agreeing with Jacob that the trial court could review his case.
“In his motion to dismiss, Vigh characterized Jacob’s complaint as if it were based entirely upon purported violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct, and he alleged that such issues are the exclusive province of the Indiana Supreme Court and, thus, that the trial court did not have jurisdiction over Jacob’s claims. This court addressed that same argument, and rejected it, in Alvarado v. Nagy, 819 N.E.2d 520 (Ind. Ct. App. 2004),” Judge Edward Najam wrote for the appellate court.
“As we have noted, Vigh contends that the trial court ‘has no jurisdiction to adjudicate’ any claims related to his alleged misconduct. Vigh is mistaken. If Jacob’s claims are proven, Vigh may be subject to sanctions under the Indiana Rules for Admission to the Bar and Discipline of Attorneys,” Najam continued. “That is not for us to decide. But we can say that our Supreme Court’s exclusive jurisdiction over such matters does not preempt or preclude a tort or contract claim arising from the same facts.
“In sum, while Jacob’s complaint includes allegations that Vigh violated certain canons of the Rules of Professional Conduct, that does not mean the trial court lacks jurisdiction over his complaint, which alleges claims of fraud, breach of contract, and breach of fiduciary duty and supports a claim for legal malpractice,” the panel concluded, reversing and remanding the case for further proceedings.
According to the Indiana Roll of Attorneys, Vigh was admitted to practice in 1999 and currently works at the Law Offices of Dylan A. Vigh, LLC. He has no disciplinary history.