Law School Case Brief
Boyd v. Brett-Major - 449 So. 2d 952 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1984)
It is not the role of an attorney acting as counsel to independently determine what is best for his client and then act accordingly. Rather, such an attorney is to allow the client to determine what is in the client's best interests and then act according to the wishes of that client within the limits of the law.
In May 1980, plaintiffs' son was required to post a criminal appearance bond in Palm Beach County. A bonding company agreed to post the $100,000 bond and in return plaintiffs signed a mortgage and promissory note encumbering their home. The bonding company failed to file an affidavit as required by Section 903.14, Florida Statutes (1983), thereby creating an absolute defense to any subsequent foreclosure action. When plaintiffs' son failed to appear in court, the bond was estreated. The bonding company unsuccessfully sought reimbursement from plaintiffs, and ultimately filed a mortgage foreclosure action. Plaintiffs retained the defendant-attorney to represent them in the action. Plaintiffs claimed on appeal that they wished to win the suit, and that the attorney assured them of success. Defendant-attorney contended, however, that because plaintiffs wished to maintain an ongoing relationship with the bonding company, they requested only that the action be delayed so that they could raise the funds to repay the debt. In any event, the attorney filed an answer in the foreclosure action, but failed to adequately plead Section 903.14 as an affirmative defense. A final summary judgment was entered against plaintiffs on the bonding company's motion. Plaintiffs filed a legal malpractice claim against defendants, attorney and insurer, whose defense was that they had followed plaintiffs' instructions to delay the lawsuit but not win it. Final judgment was entered for defendants, and plaintiffs appealed.
Were defendants lawyers and the lawyers' insurers entitled to a final judgment on the plaintiffs' legal malpractice claim?
The Court affirmed the judgment in favor of defendant, attorney and insurer, holding that an attorney must follow the clients' wishes within the law. The court held that the finding that plaintiff legal clients had directed defendant attorney to delay, but not win, the lawsuit in order to gain time to pay the note on the mortgage, was a factual determination that was supported by sufficient evidence.
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