Pennsylvania Superior Court Continues to Apply Gist of the Action Doctrine to Legal Malpractice Claims.

Marshall Dennehey
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Outerlimits Technologies, LLC v. Cozen O’Connor, No. 169 EDA 2023, 2023 WL 8524299, unpublished (Pa. Super. Dec. 8, 2023)

The Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed a trial court ruling dismissing a legal malpractice breach of contract claim as barred by the gist of the action doctrine. The plaintiff sued a law firm for breach of contract, acknowledging that the parties did not have a written fee agreement, but alleging the law firm failed to follow the client’s specific oral instructions. Therefore, the defendant breached the contract for legal services.

The court engaged in a detailed discussion of legal malpractice jurisprudence and the evolution of the gist of the action doctrine as applicable to professional liability claims in Pennsylvania. The court found that the plaintiff’s allegations regarding the law firm’s failure to properly advise them in connection with intellectual property matters demonstrated that “the alleged contract merely served as ‘the vehicle’ to establish the relationship between the parties, during the existence of which [law firm] allegedly committed a tort.” Thus, the court affirmed the trial court’s order granting the law firm’s motion for summary judgment and dismissing the breach of contract claim as barred by the gist of the action doctrine.

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