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Mark Lefkow Obtains Summary Judgment for Lawyer and Law Firm in Forsyth State Court

May 26, 2022

CSVL Partner Mark Lefkow prevailed on summary judgment for a probate attorney and law firm in a complex, highly contested case involving real estate and probate law. After the plaintiff’s fiancé passed away, plaintiff hired the lawyer to collect money she gave her fiancé. Plaintiff initially claimed that the funds were loans to the fiancé and the lawyer recovered over $430,000 for plaintiff. Plaintiff claimed that the lawyer could have obtained more if they had claimed that she made partnership contributions. She also claimed that, when she testified that she gave loans, she did not know the difference between loans and capital contributions, and the lawyer should have explained this to her. Plaintiff’s theory was that partnership assets would pass outside his estate and render plaintiff a competing claimant to funds held by the fiancé’s estate rather than a creditor. Three key admissions were obtained in depositions: (1) plaintiff admitted she had no agreement with her fiancé as to division of profits and losses for the alleged partnership; (2) when confronted with plaintiff’s admissions, plaintiff’s own expert admitted that, if the lawyer had pursued the claims as partnership contributions under these circumstances, it would have violated the ethical rules; and (3) the administrator of the fiancé’s estate found substantial commingling, rendering it impossible to segregate funds plaintiff had given the fiancé from other funds. In granting summary judgment, the court ruled that plaintiff’s evidence did not satisfy the requirements for an enforceable partnership; plaintiff could not show that she would have obtained a better result but for the acts or omissions of her lawyer; and plaintiff’s settlement of her claims severed causation as a matter of law.

For informational purposes only. Past success does not indicate the likelihood of success in future cases.