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Fickett v. Superior Court of Pima County

    Brief Fact Summary. Petitioners, defendants in a

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Attorneys may incur liability to non-clients in many situations in which it is foreseeable that their actions might harm them.

    Facts. Petitioner, attorney for the conservator of a mentally incompetent man’s estate, is a defendant in a pending suit alleging that he was negligent in failing to discover that the conservator had been engaged in an ongoing scheme to defraud the estate. Petitioner argues that, absent a showing or fraud or collusion, he had no duty to the conservator’s ward. The lower court rejected this argument, and Petitioner now appeals.

    Issue. May a conservator’s attorney be held liable for failure to detect misappropriation of an estate assets?

    Held. Yes. Attorneys may, as a matter of policy, be held liable to non-clients after a number of factors are considered, including the extent to which the transaction was designed to affect the plaintiff, the forseeability of harm to him, the degree of certainty that plaintiff would suffer injury, the connection between defendant’s conduct and plaintiff’s injuries suffered, and the policy of preventing future harm.
    When an attorney represents the guardian of an incompetent, he assumes a relationship not only with the guardian, but with the ward.


    Discussion. This is an important decision regarding the duties of attorneys to non-clients.


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