Kilpatrick v. Wiley, Rein & Fielding

In Kilpatrick v. Wiley, Rein & Fielding, 909 P.2d 1283 (Utah Ct. App. 1996), the court of appeals held that where plaintiffs' case presented "genuine issues of fact surrounding the element of causation, the trial court improperly granted summary judgment" to defendants. 909 P.2d at 1293. In that case, plaintiffs brought an action against defendant law firm for simultaneously representing plaintiffs and several other clients with conflicting interests, despite plaintiffs' objections. Id. at 1286-88. During their representation, plaintiffs were advised by defendant to accept a financing offer from one of defendant's clients whose interests conflicted with plaintiff, rather than a similar offer made by a non-client company. Id. In addition, the defendant simultaneously represented plaintiffs and two other clients in business transactions between plaintiffs and the two clients, including a joint venture. Id. During these simultaneous representations, the defendant prepared promissory notes and other documents containing terms disfavoring plaintiffs. Id. Plaintiffs brought their claim when they realized that under the documents prepared by defendant, plaintiffs were obligated to pay off debts incurred by the joint venture even after its dissolution. Id. at 1289. The court in Kilpatrick held that the trial court erred in weighing evidence presented by the parties, finding that "although the trial court explicitly recognized disputed facts in its oral ruling, it nonetheless pressed forward, judging the credibility of and weighing the evidence" when it should have only concerned itself with whether genuine issues of fact existed. Id. at 1292. In Kilpatrick, the court of appeals required that in order to meet the standard for causation for a breach of fiduciary duty in a legal malpractice action, "clients must show that if the attorney had adhered to the ordinary standards of professional conduct . . . the client would have benefited." 909 P.2d at 1291