Law School Case Brief
McDaniel v. Gile - 230 Cal. App. 3d 363, 281 Cal. Rptr. 242 (Cal. App. 2d Dist. 1991)
A review of an order granting summary adjudication of issues is bound by the rules applicable to review of summary judgments. In reviewing a summary judgment a court must determine if all the papers submitted show that there is no triable issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 437c(c). A defendant moving for summary judgment must conclusively negate a necessary element of the plaintiff's case or establish a complete defense and thereby demonstrate that under no hypothesis is there a material factual issue which requires the process of a trial. The moving party has the burden of showing that as a matter of law there were no triable issues of fact.
Plaintiff Ames H. McDaniel, an attorney, filed a lawsuit in California state court against defendant Patricia Gile, his former client. McDaniel sought to recover unpaid legal fees incurred in his representation of Gile in her marital dissolution. Gile filed a cross-complaint, alleging legal malpractice and intentional infliction of emotional distress arising from McDaniel's alleged failure to perform legal services after Gile rejected his sexual advances. The trial court granted McDaniel summary adjudication on the issue of intentional infliction of emotional distress, finding that McDaniel's actions did not constitute outrageous conduct. The court also granted summary adjudication on the issues pertaining to the malpractice claim. At trial, McDaniel presented his case on the complaint; Gile presented no evidence on the cross-complaint. After a bench trial, the trial court entered judgment in favor of McDaniel on both the complaint and cross-complaint. Gile appealed.
Did the trial court err by granting summary adjudication in favor of McDanieal?
The appellate court reversed the trial court's final judgment, directed the trial court to set aside the order granting summary adjudication, and remanded the case for further proceedings. The court ruled, inter alia, that the trial court improperly granted McDaniel summary judgment because a triable issue of fact remained whether his withholding of legal services constituted outrageous conduct in light of the fiduciary relationship between him, as an attorney, and Giles, his client. In addition, a triable issue of fact existed as to the legal malpractice cause of action, since McDaniel's alleged withholding of legal services or rendering substandard services after Gile's rejection of his sexual advances necessarily fell below the standard of care and skill of members of the legal profession.
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