Friday, February 23, 2007

South Carolina Court of Appeals holds that attorney owes a duty to third parties to distribute settlement proceeds

In Moore v. Weinberg, after the settlement of litigation and receipt of proceeds, attorney distributed all the money and in the process overlooked an Assignment, which he drafted, of a portion of the proceeds to Wheeler. Wheeler sued the attorney for negligence. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the attorney and the Court of appeals reversed. According to the panel, the attorney drafted the Assignment and did not dispute that he had notice of it. The Rules of Professional Conduct and law from other jurisdictions established that the attorney owed a duty to Moore to disburse the funds. we conclude Weinberg owed Moore a duty to disburse the assigned funds to Moore.

The applicable part of Rule 1.15 provides:

(d) Upon receiving funds or other property in which a client or third person has an interest, a lawyer shall promptly notify the client or third person. Except as stated in this rule or otherwise permitted by law or by agreement with the client, a lawyer shall promptly deliver to the client or third person any funds or other property that the client or third person is entitled to receive . . . .
(e) When in the course of representation a lawyer is in possession of property in which two or more persons (one of whom may be the lawyer) claim interests, the property shall be kept separate by the lawyer until the dispute is resolved. The lawyer shall promptly distribute all portions of the property as to which the interests are not in dispute.

Hence, the grant of summary judgment was reversed.

No comments: