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Georgia Court of Appeals Affirms No Legal Duty on Closing Lawyer
The Georgia Court of Appeals has affirmed that a closing lawyer generally has no duty to a non-client. Plaintiff was selling property to a purchaser. Purchaser retained the closing lawyer, whose firm had also represented purchaser in litigation with the Plaintiff. The undisputed facts showed that lawyer represented the purchaser at the closing and not the Plaintiff. In preparation for closing, the lawyer made an error in one of the conveyancing deeds, resulting in an overconveyance. The error was caught post-closing during a related dispossessory hearing and attempts were made to correct it. Plaintiff rejected the correction and sued for unspecified damages.
Lawyer moved for summary judgment and the trial court granted the motion on the grounds that lawyer did not owe Plaintiff a legal duty of care. The Court of Appeals affirmed. Notably, Plaintiff tried to claim a duty under the “voluntary undertaking” section 323 of the Restatement (Second) of Torts. In rejecting, the Court of Appeals emphasized that the Restatement is not binding law, but “should be considered as a whole for what it is – a learned treatise.”
Take-home: the Court affirmed Driebe v. Cox and the general principle that a lawyer only rarely owes a legal duty to non-client.
The case is Simmons v. Flint, Connolly & Walker, LLP, __ S.E.2d __, 2023 WL 6820557 (Oct. 17, 2023).