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Valchuis v. Saul Ewing, LLP

Superior Court of Massachusetts, Suffolk, Business Litigation Session

April 25, 2018

David VALCHUIS, et al.
v.
SAUL EWING, LLP, et al.

          File Date: April 26, 2018

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT’S MOTIONS TO DISMISS OR FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS

          Kenneth W. Salinger, Justice Superior Court

          Plaintiffs assert claims for legal malpractice against two different sets of defendants. They allege that their prior lawyers were negligent in failing to discover that a 1998 deed was defective because the individuals purporting to convey the property no longer held legal title.

         The Saul Ewing Defendants (Saul Ewing, LLP, and Peter S. Brooks) have moved to dismiss this action under Mass.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). The Lourie & Cutler Defendants (Lourie & Cutler, PC, Jean M. Kolling, and Leslie Crane Slavin) have filed an answer, but now move for judgment on the pleadings under rule 12(c).

         The Court concludes that Defendants are not entitled to dismissal of this action on the grounds that Plaintiffs’ claims are time barred, or that Plaintiffs’ alleged harms were caused by unforeseeable and superseding events that cut off any liability of Defendants, or that Plaintiffs have failed to allege that they suffered any compensable injury as a result of Defendants’ alleged negligence. The Court will therefore DENY the motion to dismiss and the motion for judgment on the pleadings.

         1. Factual Allegations

         Plaintiffs allege the following facts in their first amended complaint.

         1.1. Alleged Malpractice by Lourie & Cutler Defendants

         The Valchuises retained the Lourie & Cutler Defendants in 1998 to help convey certain commercial property in Watertown, Massachusetts, into a nominee trust. These defendants prepared a deed that purported to transfer this Property from David Valchuis and Michael Valchuis (now known as Michael Vale) to the Clarendon Street Nominee Trust (the "Nominee Trust"). Mr. Valchuis and Mr. Vale both executed the deed.

         Plaintiffs assumed that this deed was effective, and that from then on CSNT owned the Property.

         In fact, however, the deed was not effective because at the time it was recorded Mr. Valchuis and Mr. Vale were not the record title holders of the Property. The actual owner was the Clarendon Street Realty Trust.

         Plaintiffs allege that the Lourie & Cutler Defendants were negligent in failing to conduct a title search, which would have revealed that Mr. Valchuis and Mr. Vale did not own and therefore could not convey the Property. One can reasonably infer-and therefore under rule 12(b)(6) and rule 12(c) the Court must infer-that Plaintiffs did not know that they no longer held title to the Property. If they were already aware of that fact then the allegation in the complaint that a proper title search "would have revealed" that Valchuis and Vale "were not the lawful record title owners of the property" would make no sense.

         1.2. Alleged Malpractice by Saul Ewing Defendants

         The Valchuises retained the Saul Ewing Defendants in 2013 to help them partition ownership of the Property. These defendants prepared and filed a petition for partition that referenced the deed ...


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