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McCarty v. Browning - 797 So. 2d 30 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2001)

Rule:

In stating a claim for legal malpractice, it is not sufficient merely to assert an attorney-client relationship, but to also allege that the relationship existed with respect to the acts or omissions upon which the malpractice claim is based.

Facts:

In December, 1992,attorney Browning handled for client McCarty the closing for McCarty's purchase of a home. After the purchase (in 1996) McCarty was cited by Monroe County for having an illegal downstairs enclosure on the property, the enclosure of which pre-existed McCarty's purchase. McCarty, to bring the property into code compliance, removed the offending enclosure, then filed a legal malpractice claim against Browning, alleging negligence in handling the closing for Browning's failure to discover and disclose the existing code violation on the property. The trial court granted summary judgment to Browning and his law firm. McCarty appealed.

Issue:

Did Browning commit legal malpractice by failing to discover and disclose the existing code violation on the property?

Answer:

No

Conclusion:

The appellate court held that Browning did not commit legal malpractice because (1) Browning did not enter into an attorney-client relationship with McCarty for the purpose of examining building permits or investigating the applicable zoning and land use regulations to ensure that the property was in code compliance and (2) McCarty was not aware of the code violation.

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