High Court Sticks With ‘Strict Privity’

Plaintiffs’ lawsuit against father’s estate planners could have allowed third parties to sue attorneys

By Hannah Garcia

LAW WEEK COLORADO

The Colorado Supreme Court declined an appeal to abandon a rule that makes it difficult for non-clients to sue attorneys for malpractice in a Jan. 18 opinion.

The case, Baker v. Wood Ris & Hame, landed in front of the state’s high court after two “dissatisfied beneficiaries” attempted to file a claim against the attorneys who drafted their father’s estate planning documents.

For the first time, the justices clarified prior appeals rulings that bar plaintiffs from bringing claims against attorneys who do not represent them except under very narrow circumstances called “strict privity.” The current rule currently only allows such a lawsuit if the attorney engages in fraud, malicious conduct or negligent misrepresentation.

Carolyn Fairless, a managing partner with Wheeler Trigg O’Donnell and a legal malpractice attorney who represented the defendants in the case, praised the opinion as a preservation of attorney-client privilege and the accompanying relationship it entails.

To read this story and other complete articles featured in the January 25, 2016 print edition of Law Week Colorado, copies are available for purchase online.