CONCORD, N.H. (Legal Newsline) – A legal malpractice claim against a New Hampshire law firm has been revived after the state's Supreme Court reversed an earlier ruling.
The case centers on whether a settlement agreement reached in an underlying action barred the plaintiff from suing the attorney who represented her.
A trial court issued a summary judgment in favor of the defendants, Charles W. Grau and Upton Hatfield law firm, against Dr. Cheryl Moore of Young & Novis pathology service.
In the opinion, issued Aug. 8, Associate Justice Gary Hicks wrote, "The malpractice alleged here cannot be said to bear any causal connection to the former relationship between (Wentworth-Douglass Hospital) and the (Computer Fraud and Abuse Act) defendants other than the fact that 'but for' that relationship, Y&N’s services could not have been terminated, there would have been no CFAA action, and the plaintiff 'would not have been subject to' the malpractice allegedly committed by the defendants with respect to those matters."
Hicks found that the legal malpractice claim did not "arise from her (plaintiff's) former relationship with (Wentworth-Douglass Hospital)" as the provision relating to a bar on further actions relates specifically to Wentworth-Douglass Hospital (WDH) and the defendants in the earlier suit. He remanded the malpractice suit back to the lower court.
Moore sued Grau and the law firm over allegations of legal malpractice under the New Hampshire Consumer Protection Act over their representation during a lawsuit initiated by the hospital.
WDH had employed Moore and her practice to provide pathology services, but then decided to terminate them.
Prior to the termination, it was alleged that Moore and others downloaded confidential documents and destroyed electronic data connected to the WDH network. They were alleged to have violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
But it emerged in court documents that Grau, after he was retained, when asked what action the defendants in the suit should take in anticipation of the suit, wrote an email a list of documents and records they should "take."
WDH and Moore, along with her husband, Thomas, and a partner, Dr. Glenn Littell, reached a settlement agreement, one which was first drafted by Gray and another lawyer, but finalized by a third. One provision included barring future lawsuits between the parties.
Moore then sued Haus and his firm, but the attorney successfully before a superior court that this action should be dismissed because of the settlement agreement. Moore appealed.