Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Homebuyer's Lawyer Found Liable For Negligence In Connection w/ Crappy Title Search Delegated Out To & Performed By Another Attorney; SC Supremes: 'Delegation Of Task ≠ Delegation Of Liability'

From an opinion summary from US Law:
  • Amber Johnson filed suit against her closing attorney, Stanley Alexander, arguing he breached his duty of care by failing to discover the house Johnson purchased had been sold at a tax sale the previous year. The trial court granted partial summary judgment in favor of Johnson as to Alexander's liability.

    On appeal, the court of appeals held Alexander could not be held liable as a matter of law simply because the attorney he hired to perform the title work may have been negligent. Instead, the court determined the relevant inquiry was "whether Alexander acted with reasonable care in relying on [another attorney's] title search"; accordingly, it reversed and remanded.

    The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals: even absent Alexander's admissions, the Court found it was error to equate delegation of a task with delegation of liability. The Court therefore agreed with Johnson that an attorney was liable for negligence in tasks he delegates absent some express limitation of his representation.

    Applying this standard to the facts, the Court found the grant of summary judgment was proper because there was no genuine issue of material fact as to liability. The case was remanded back to the trial court for a determination of damages.
Source: Opinion Summary - Johnson v. Alexander.

For the court ruling, see Johnson v. Alexander, No. 27553 (N.C. July 29, 2015).

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