ST. LOUIS – The Missouri Court of Appeals has thrown out a legal malpractice lawsuit against two lawyers in a contract dispute case.
"Because we find the trial court did not dispose of a distinct judicial unit, we lack jurisdiction and therefore dismiss this appeal," Judge Robert G. Dowd Jr. wrote in the Dec. 11 decision.
Rhoderick Beery II and his son, Rhoderick Beery III, filed a complaint against attorneys Jeffrey Roper and Robert Chandler over allegations of fraudulent misrepresentation, negligent misrepresentation and legal malpractice.
“The trial court granted the respondents’ motion for summary judgment on counts one and two, the fraud claims, but denied respondents’ motion as to count three, the legal malpractice claim,” the Appeals Court decision stated.
“While the court expressed some reservations about the viability of the legal malpractice claim...its judgment denying summary judgment on the legal malpractice claim cannot be any clearer,” Dowd wrote.
“This dispute arose out of a contract between the Beerys and National Auto Warranty Services Inc. (NAWS) pursuant to which the Beerys agreed to assist NAWS in obtaining an insurance license in exchange for a payment of a portion of each insurance contract,” the Appeals Court decision stated.
The Beerys claim NAWS stopped making the payments, which was a breach of contract.
In 2008, they hired Roper to represent them, but he was not licensed to practice law in any state at the time.
“Roper led the Beerys to believe that he was an attorney licensed in Missouri, though he was not,” Dowd wrote in the court decision. “...Previously, he had been licensed in Illinois and shortly after the Beerys hired him he was reinstated in Illinois.”
Roper hired Robert Chandler to assist with the case.
Eventually, the parties agreed to settle with NAWS agreeing to pay $2 million and, in turn, the Beerys would drop the lawsuit. However, shortly after the NAWS filed for bankruptcy and the Beerys were only able to recover $300,000.