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Florida Third DCA affirms dismissal of legal malpractice case because plaintiff was not in privity with or an intended beneficiary of defendant's legal services

On September 26, 2018, in Driessen v. University of Miami School of Law Children and Youth Law Clinic, No. 3D18-999, the Florida Third DCA affirmed a trial court’s dismissal of a legal malpractice complaint against a University of Miami Law School clinic. The plaintiff brought the legal malpractice lawsuit on the behalf of her developmentally disabled daughter. The clinic had previously been retained on the daughter’s behalf by other family members who were the appointed legal guardians of the daughter. The trial court dismissed the lawsuit after concluding that the plaintiff was not in legal privity with the clinic. The Third DCA noted that while there is an exception in professional negligence cases to the general rule requiring privity of contract where the plaintiff is the intended third-party beneficiary of the services performed by the attorney, in this case the mother was not the intended beneficiary of the clinic’s representation. The Third DCA concluded that while the mother may have had legitimate concerns regarding some of the decisions made by her daughter’s guardians, those concerns do not provide her with the standing to sue the clinic for legal malpractice in its representation of her daughter’s guardians.

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