Agency Allegation in Malpractice Complaint Results in Right to Arbitrate by Non-Signatory to Arbitration Agreement


A former client brought a complaint for legal malpractice against several attorneys. Some were signatories to an arbitration agreement with the client, but one was not. In response to a petition to compel arbitration brought by those attorneys who had signed the arbitration agreement, the court found that claims against those attorneys were inextricably intertwined with the claims against the one non-signatory, who was not entitled to arbitration. For this reason, the trial court ruled that the petitioning attorneys were not entitled to arbitration. This was apparently out of concern that inconsistent rulings could result if similar claims were pursued against the attorneys in different fora.

On appeal in an unpublished decision, the California Court of Appeal ruled that the petitioning attorneys were entitled to arbitration because the plaintiff had alleged in her complaint that all of the attorney defendants were agents of one another, and the non-signatory attorney was willing to join the other attorneys in arbitration. The court stated....

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