Roberts v. Lanier

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Barbara Roberts sued Steve Lanier and his firm Steve Lanier, PC, and Rodney Stallings and his firm Coggin & Stallings, LLC. In 2006, Ms. Roberts was arrested on murder charges and sent to the Cherokee County jail. She contacted Attorney Lanier, who then met with her and agreed to represent her in her criminal proceedings. The contract between them provided that Ms. Roberts would pay a "nonrefundable retainer" of $50,000. At that time, Ms. Roberts executed a power-of-attorney authorizing Mr. Lanier to withdraw the retainer from her bank accounts. Ms. Roberts testified at trial that she first learned that Mr. Lanier was not licensed to practice law in Alabama when she appeared for her first hearing at the district court. It was then that she was introduced to Mr. Stallings, who "associated" on her case. Seeing no need for two lawyers, she tried to terminate Mr. Lanier's representation. Mr. Stallings eventually managed Ms. Roberts' case, having all her mail sent to his office so that he could "oversee every aspect" of her personal life, including payment of all outstanding bills and expenses. Ms. Roberts alleged that instead of using her money for the purposes she intended, Mr. Stallings misappropriated approximately $100,000 of her funds. Ms. Roberts was eventually convicted of capital murder and sentenced to life without parole. She later learned that the "nonrefundable retainer" language in her contract with Mr. Lanier was unenforceable under Alabama law, and sued her former lawyers for legal malpractice. The circuit court granted summary judgment to the lawyers. Upon review, the Supreme Court reversed the circuit court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the lawyers only with respect to employment contract and the "nonrefundable retainer" and the misappropriation of Ms. Roberts' money for expenses while she awaited trial. The Court remanded the case for further proceedings.

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REL: 04/15/11 R e l : 06/10/2011 as M o d i f i e d on D e n i a l o f Rehearing. Notice: T h i s o p i n i o n i s s u b j e c t t o formal r e v i s i o n b e f o r e p u b l i c a t i o n i n t h e advance s h e e t s o f Southern R e p o r t e r . R e a d e r s a r e r e q u e s t e d t o n o t i f y t h e R e p o r t e r o f D e c i s i o n s , A l a b a m a A p p e l l a t e C o u r t s , 300 D e x t e r A v e n u e , M o n t g o m e r y , A l a b a m a 3 6 1 0 4 - 3 7 4 1 ( ( 3 3 4 ) 2 2 9 ¬ 0 6 4 9 ) , o f a n y t y p o g r a p h i c a l o r o t h e r e r r o r s , i n o r d e r t h a t c o r r e c t i o n s may b e made b e f o r e t h e o p i n i o n i s p r i n t e d i n Southern R e p o r t e r . SUPREME COURT OF ALABAMA OCTOBER TERM, 2010-2011 1100045 Barbara Roberts v. Steve L a n i e r e t a l . Appeal from Cherokee C i r c u i t (CV-09-11) Court WOODALL, J u s t i c e . Barbara Lanier, Roberts P.C. ("Stallings"), asserting sued ("the firm"), and Coggin claims Steve related Lanier Rodney & Stallings, to Lanier's ("Lanier"), Loring Steve Stallings L.L.C. ("Coggin"), and Stallings's representation of Roberts regarding a c e r t a i n c r i m i n a l matter 1100045 i n Alabama. favor of The 1 circuit Lanier and a f f i r m i n p a r t and the circuit the court for further April 21, m u r d e r and was She firm, summary j u d g m e n t s i n Stallings, r e v e r s e i n p a r t , and we Facts On court entered and Coggin. We remand t h e c a s e t o proceedings. Procedural History 2 0 0 6 , R o b e r t s was placed and a r r e s t e d on a charge i n the Cherokee County, Alabama, of jail. c o n t a c t e d L a n i e r , an a t t o r n e y l i c e n s e d t o p r a c t i c e l a w i n Georgia, who was then r e p r e s e n t i n g charge i n Georgia. Lanier, w i t h the P.C., L a n i e r has s i n c e 1997 and R o b e r t s on been d o i n g i s the business sole attorney as Steve associated firm. L a n i e r t r a v e l e d t o C h e r o k e e C o u n t y and w h i l e she was e x e c u t e d an i n the Cherokee County j a i l . employment a g r e e m e n t , by provide legal pending charge contract a misdemeanor services of provided to Roberts noncapital that with Roberts R o b e r t s and Lanier which Lanier agreed i n Alabama murder Roberts met ("the would on the contract"). pay Lanier to then The a R o b e r t s a l s o sued the Alabama S t a t e Bar. However, t h e c i r c u i t c o u r t determined t h a t i t s judgments i n f a v o r of the o t h e r d e f e n d a n t s rendered the c l a i m s a g a i n s t the Alabama S t a t e B a r moot. R o b e r t s has n o t a p p e a l e d t h a t d e t e r m i n a t i o n . 1 2 1100045 "nonrefundable retainer" of $50,000 for R o b e r t s a l s o e x e c u t e d a power o f a t t o r n e y w i t h d r a w $50,000 from her bank a c c o u n t s . Lanier withdrew according the the $50,000 from Roberts claims account, not that, at 2 to Shortly thereafter, accounts deposited i t s trust the services. to allow Lanier Roberts's to h i s d e p o s i t i o n testimony, firm's business his and, t h e money i n account. time they executed the c o n t r a c t , L a n i e r " f a i l e d t o d i s c l o s e t o [ h e r ] t h a t he was not l i c e n s e d [ t o p r a c t i c e l a w ] i n A l a b a m a ; t h a t he w o u l d have to associate i n order to to p a r t i c i p a t e i n the c a s e ; and local seek p e r m i s s i o n counsel i n A l a b a m a on t o be a l l o w e d the case t h a t R o b e r t s w o u l d be s o l e l y r e s p o n s i b l e f o r A l a b a m a counsel's fees." that Roberts's b r i e f , explained to [Roberts] at 15. in their Lanier initial few d a y s t h e r e a f t e r t h a t s i n c e he was testified "he meeting or w i t h i n a not l i c e n s e d i n Alabama, he w o u l d be r e q u i r e d t o a p p l y f o r p e r m i s s i o n to represent her, L a n i e r has c o n c e d e d t h a t t h e " n o n r e f u n d a b l e r e t a i n e r " language i s p r o h i b i t e d i n Alabama, t h a t "the c o n t r a c t was 'unenforceable as w r i t t e n u n d e r A l a b a m a l a w , ' " and "that retaining the e n t i r e fee without performing equivalent s e r v i c e s w o u l d be p r o h i b i t e d . " L a n i e r and t h e f i r m ' s b r i e f , a t 4 (emphasis i n o r i g i n a l ) . 2 3 1100045 and t h a t an A l a b a m a a t t o r n e y w o u l d have t o be i n v o l v e d i n h e r defense." L a n i e r and t h e f i r m ' s b r i e f , A f t e r meeting with Roberts, as local counsel. At that Lanier time, a t 7. associated Stallings was Stallings a member a t C o g g i n , w h i c h was d i s s o l v e d i n December 2008. R o b e r t s s a y s t h a t on A p r i l 27, 2006, a t a h e a r i n g i n the C h e r o k e e D i s t r i c t C o u r t on h e r n o n c a p i t a l - m u r d e r c h a r g e , learned f o r the f i r s t time that Lanier was not l i c e n s e d she to p r a c t i c e l a w i n A l a b a m a and t h a t S t a l l i n g s h a d been a s s o c i a t e d on h e r c a s e . that She s a y s t h a t S t a l l i n g s she w o u l d have t o e n t e r w i t h him. into Lanier a separate R o b e r t s a l l e g e s t h a t on May a f e e agreement w i t h S t a l l i n g s , $35,000 t o l d her at the hearing to represent responds that her on there f e e agreement 1, 2006, she e x e c u t e d thereby agreeing t o pay him the noncapital-murder i s no written contract charge. between R o b e r t s and S t a l l i n g s i n t h e r e c o r d and t h a t he p a i d Stallings $5,000 Roberts's o u t o f t h e $50,000 he had withdrawn from accounts. Roberts terminate two says that on May 1, 2006, she attempted to L a n i e r ' s r e p r e s e n t a t i o n b e c a u s e she saw no n e e d f o r attorneys to represent her 4 on the noncapital-murder 1100045 charge. A c c o r d i n g t o R o b e r t s , she r e q u e s t e d a r e f u n d o f t h e $50,000 p r e v i o u s l y w i t h d r a w n as h i s "nonrefundable" retainer. L a n i e r t o l d h e r t h a t "based language refund from h e r bank a c c o u n t s by L a n i e r Roberts also says on t h e ' n o n - r e f u n d a b l e ' that retainer o f h i s employment c o n t r a c t she was n o t e n t i t l e d t o a o f any f e e s . Lanier further explained that Roberts m i g h t as w e l l l e t h i m c o n t i n u e w o r k i n g on h e r c a s e s i n c e she w o u l d n o t be r e c e i v i n g terminated." agreed his a r e f u n d o f any f e e s e v e n i f he was Roberts's b r i e f , hours e q u a l e d $50,000 o r she was i n d i c t e d f o r c a p i t a l murder, w h i c h e v e r vice July 2006, admission case. That came Lanier f i l e d i n order first. an a p p l i c a t i o n t o appear as c o u n s e l f o r p r o hac i n Roberts's He was g r a n t e d p r o h a c v i c e s t a t u s on A u g u s t 3, 2006. 3 same d a y , t h e d i s t r i c t hearing case R o b e r t s s a y s she t h e n to allow Lanier to continue h i s representation u n t i l billable In a t 19. on R o b e r t s ' s t o the grand court finished noncapital-murder jury. Stallings charge alone See Rule V I I , Rules G o v e r n i n g A d m i s s i o n State Bar. 3 5 i t s preliminary and s e n t h e r was present to t o t h e Alabama 1100045 represent Roberts a t the p r e l i m i n a r y hearing i n the d i s t r i c t court. On November 2, 2006, t h e g r a n d j u r y i n d i c t e d R o b e r t s f o r c a p i t a l murder. jail, R o b e r t s was r e t u r n e d t o t h e C h e r o k e e where s h e was h e l d w i t h o u t b o n d . County Roberts claims that "at S t a l l i n g s ' [ s ] r e q u e s t , R o b e r t s had a l l o f h e r m a i l f o r w a r d e d t o [ h i s ] l a w o f f i c e so t h a t S t a l l i n g s could tend t o and oversee every aspect of Roberts'[s] personal l i f e , to include but not l i m i t e d t o : t h e payment o f a l l o f h e r m o n t h l y b i l l s and e x p e n s e s . At S t a l l i n g s ' [ s ] request, Roberts a l s o r e l i n q u i s h e d her banking account i n f o r m a t i o n and c h e c k b o o k ( s ) t o S t a l l i n g s . " T h e r e a f t e r , S t a l l i n g s would p e r i o d i c a l l y appear a t t h e C h e r o k e e C o u n t y J a i l a n d have R o b e r t s s i g n b l a n k checks f o r t h e s t a t e d purpose of u s i n g the checks t o pay R o b e r t s ' [ s ] monthly b i l l s and expenses ( i . e . , home u t i l i t i e s , c r e d i t c a r d b i l l s , e t c . ) a n d expenses a s s o c i a t e d w i t h R o b e r t s ' s c r i m i n a l case." Roberts's b r i e f , a t 21. Roberts a l l e g e s that, for purposes instead of using the blank she h a d i n t e n d e d , S t a l l i n g s p a y a b l e t o h i m s e l f and t o o k t h e funds She claims that, between November made checks t h e checks f o rh i spersonal use. 2006 and October 2008, S t a l l i n g s m i s a p p r o p r i a t e d a p p r o x i m a t e l y $100,000 o f h e r f u n d s . On November presented 2, her with 2006, a Lanier second 6 met employment with Roberts contract, and which 1100045 provided t h a t R o b e r t s w o u l d pay L a n i e r "nonrefundable retainer" murder charge. Roberts refused Lanier testified to represent an a d d i t i o n a l $50,000 her on the to s i g n the second i n his deposition on t h e c a s e u n d e r t h e a s s u m p t i o n capitalcontract. t h a t he c o n t i n u e d t o work t h a t R o b e r t s wanted him continue and t h a t he u l t i m a t e l y w o u l d be r e t a i n e d by h e r . withdrew from r e p r e s e n t i n g to Roberts was was parole. On attorney, imprisonment February 10, unenforceable was of c a p i t a l murder and w i t h o u t the p o s s i b i l i t y of 2009, i n c o n s u l t a t i o n w i t h another R o b e r t s s a y s she l e a r n e d f o r t h e f i r s t t i m e t h a t t h e nonrefundable-retainer language R o b e r t s i n M a r c h 2007. ultimately convicted sentenced to l i f e He language i n A l a b a m a and in the that Lanier's i n r e f u s i n g to refund contract is r e l i a n c e on that any p a r t o f t h e f e e t o R o b e r t s improper. Eight days l a t e r , on F e b r u a r y 18, 2009, R o b e r t s filed a l e g a l - m a l p r a c t i c e a c t i o n i n t h e C h e r o k e e C i r c u i t C o u r t , naming Lanier, the firm, 4 and Stallings as defendants. amended h e r c o m p l a i n t t o add a c l a i m r e q u e s t i n g Roberts a declaratory Roberts a l l e g e s t h a t the f i r m i s l i a b l e f o r L a n i e r ' s a l l e g e d misconduct under a theory of respondeat s u p e r i o r . 4 7 1100045 judgment and t o add t h e Alabama defendants. Bar and C o g g i n 5 as A l l the c i r c u i t judges i n Cherokee County recused themselves, Clark State a n d t h e c a s e was a s s i g n e d t o E t o w a h C i r c u i t Judge Hall. Lanier and t h e f i r m ( h e r e i n a f t e r collectively sometimes r e f e r r e d t o as " t h e L a n i e r d e f e n d a n t s " ) moved t h e c i r c u i t c o u r t t o " d i s m i s s t h a t p o r t i o n o f t h e F i r s t Amended which purports t o be a ' d e c l a r a t o r y judgment Complaint a c t i o n ' ; or a l t e r n a t i v e l y , t o s t r i k e t h e r e f r o m a l l a l l e g a t i o n s w h i c h make any r e f e r e n c e t o t h e Alabama R u l e s o f P r o f e s s i o n a l Stallings filed a counterclaim against $457,500 on e i g h t o p e n - a c c o u n t c l a i m s . Lanier defendants' motion Roberts, Roberts Conduct." seeking opposed the t o d i s m i s s a n d moved t h e c i r c u i t c o u r t t o d i s m i s s S t a l l i n g s ' s c o u n t e r c l a i m . On A u g u s t 7, 2009, the circuit Stallings's court denied Roberts's motion c o u n t e r c l a i m and g r a n t e d t h e L a n i e r to dismiss defendants' m o t i o n t o s t r i k e " a l l a l l e g a t i o n s o f [ R o b e r t s ' s ] F i r s t Amended Complaint which Professional Roberts's 5 invoke or a l l e g e v i o l a t i o n s Conduct." request The c i r c u i t of the Rules of court also stated that f o r a d e c l a r a t o r y j u d g m e n t as t o L a n i e r ' s See supra note 1. 8 1100045 alleged unauthorized considered p r a c t i c e o f l a w was s e v e r e d i n a separate bench a n d w o u l d be trial. On A u g u s t 18, 2009, R o b e r t s moved t h e c i r c u i t a partial summary j u d g m e n t a g a i n s t t h e L a n i e r d e f e n d a n t s . c i r c u i t court denied that motion. court court f o r to dismiss S t a l l i n g s moved t h e c i r c u i t h i s counterclaim c o u n t e r c l a i m was d i s m i s s e d The on A p r i l against Roberts. The 6, 2 0 1 0 . On May 4, 2010, R o b e r t s f i l e d a s e c o n d amended complaint, r e a s s e r t i n g c l a i m s f r o m t h e f i r s t amended c o m p l a i n t , i n c l u d i n g those t h a t had been d i s m i s s e d by t h e c i r c u i t c o u r t ' s August 7 order. R o b e r t s a l s o added a f r a u d c l a i m a g a i n s t L a n i e r and a malicious-prosecution his earlier The claim against S t a l l i n g s with regard to counterclaim. L a n i e r d e f e n d a n t s moved t h e c i r c u i t court to t h e a l l e g a t i o n s i n t h e s e c o n d amended c o m p l a i n t alleged Conduct. violations of t h e Alabama Rules strike that involved of P r o f e s s i o n a l The c i r c u i t c o u r t g r a n t e d t h a t m o t i o n . Roberts then moved t h e c i r c u i t c o u r t t o c l a r i f y i t s o r d e r , a r g u i n g t h a t t h e order struck Professional judgment matters that Conduct, declaring d i d not r e f e r including that "the 9 Roberts's t o the Rules request 'non-refundable of for a retainer' 1100045 language of Defendant unconscionable and Alabama" and t h a t practice of Lanier's against Lanier law. The employment the p u b l i c had engaged circuit contract policy and i n the court is law i n unauthorized entered an order, purporting to c l a r i f y i t s e a r l i e r order, s t a t i n g , i n p e r t i n e n t part: " I t i s the understanding of the Court that a l l t o r t a n d common l a w c l a i m s a r e r e c a s t i n t o [ t h e A l a b a m a L e g a l S e r v i c e s L i a b i l i t y A c t , § 6-5-570 e t s e q . , A l a . Code 1975 ('ALSLA'),] a n d [ i t i s ] t h e p l a i n t i f f ' s b u r d e n t o show a b r e a c h o f t h e s t a n d a r d o f [ c a r e ] . A l s o , t h a t ... [§] 6-5-578[, A l a . Code 1975,] p r o h i b i t s t h e r e f e r e n c i n g o f t h e Code o f P r o f e s s i o n a l Conduct." Stallings moved malicious-prosecution which relief could the circuit court to dismiss the c l a i m f o r f a i l u r e t o s t a t e a c l a i m upon be granted. The circuit court c o n d i t i o n a l l y g r a n t e d t h e m o t i o n , and R o b e r t s has n o t a p p e a l e d that decision. the C o g g i n a l s o moved t h e c i r c u i t c o u r t t o d i s m i s s s e c o n d amended c o m p l a i n t as t o i t f o r f a i l u r e to state a claim against i t . The for a motions Lanier defendants, S t a l l i n g s , summary judgment. The a n d C o g g i n e a c h moved circuit on J u l y 23, 2010, a n d e n t e r e d court summary granted those judgments i n f a v o r o f t h e L a n i e r d e f e n d a n t s , S t a l l i n g s , a n d C o g g i n "on a l l [ s u b s t i t u t e d p. 10] 1100045 claims" brought a g a i n s t them. The c i r c u i t court also found t h a t , " [ b ] y v i r t u e o f summary j u d g m e n t s h a v i n g b e e n g r a n t e d i n favor of a l l defendants, motions t o be MOOT." the Court deems a l l o t h e r pending The c i r c u i t c o u r t went on t o s t a t e : s p e c i f i c r e l i e f h a v i n g been sought "No a g a i n s t t h e Alabama S t a t e B a r , t h e C o u r t f i n d s t h a t a l l c l a i m s p e n d i n g b e t w e e n a n d among the r e s p e c t i v e p a r t i e s a r e f u l l y r e s o l v e d , and t h i s is F I N A L as t o a l l c l a i m s a n d p a r t i e s . " Judgment (Capitalization i n original.) On J u l y 30, 2009, Judge H a l l r e s i g n e d f r o m t h e b e n c h , a n d r e t i r e d C i r c u i t Judge Samuel H. Monk was a p p o i n t e d t o p r e s i d e over the case. amend, o r v a c a t e Roberts moved t h e c i r c u i t the July court to a l t e r , 23 summary j u d g m e n t s . Judge Monk denied t h a t motion. R o b e r t s now a p p e a l s , a r g u i n g t h a t t h e c i r c u i t c o u r t e r r e d in entering defendants, circuit summary Stallings, judgments and Coggin. court erred i n f a i l i n g judicial determination retainer language in as to favor the She a l s o a r g u e s to grant whether i n t h e c o n t r a c t was 11 of that the her request the Lanier for a nonrefundable- unconscionable and 1100045 a g a i n s t p u b l i c p o l i c y and the u n a u t h o r i z e d as t o w h e t h e r L a n i e r had p r a c t i c e of engaged i n law. Standard of Review " T h i s C o u r t ' s r e v i e w o f a summary j u d g m e n t i s de novo. We a p p l y t h e same s t a n d a r d o f r e v i e w as t h e trial court applied. Specifically, we must d e t e r m i n e w h e t h e r t h e movant has made a p r i m a f a c i e s h o w i n g t h a t no g e n u i n e i s s u e o f m a t e r i a l fact e x i s t s and t h a t t h e movant i s e n t i t l e d t o a j u d g m e n t as a m a t t e r o f l a w . I n making such a d e t e r m i n a t i o n , we must r e v i e w t h e e v i d e n c e i n t h e light most f a v o r a b l e t o t h e nonmovant. Once t h e movant makes a p r i m a f a c i e s h o w i n g t h a t t h e r e i s no g e n u i n e i s s u e of m a t e r i a l f a c t , the burden then s h i f t s t o the nonmovant t o p r o d u c e ' s u b s t a n t i a l e v i d e n c e ' as t o the e x i s t e n c e of a genuine i s s u e of m a t e r i a l f a c t . ' [ S ] u b s t a n t i a l evidence i s e v i d e n c e of such weight and q u a l i t y t h a t f a i r - m i n d e d p e r s o n s i n t h e e x e r c i s e o f i m p a r t i a l j u d g m e n t can reasonably i n f e r the e x i s t e n c e o f t h e f a c t s o u g h t t o be p r o v e d . ' " Dow v. (Ala. Alabama 2004) F l o r i d a , 547 Democratic (quoting So. Party, West 2d 870, 871 v. 897 So. Founders ( A l a . 1989) 2d Life 1035, 1038-39 Assur. (citations Co. of omitted)). Analysis I . The Roberts first Lanier argues that defendants the circuit court erred in e n t e r i n g a summary j u d g m e n t i n f a v o r o f t h e L a n i e r defendants. The i t s summary circuit court judgment i n the did Lanier not state the defendants' 12 basis favor. for However, Roberts 1100045 argues that defendants' court's none of the grounds argued in m o t i o n f o r a summary j u d g m e n t s u p p o r t s the Lanier the c i r c u i t judgment. In their motion, Roberts's claims Liability Act, A L S L A " ) , and are § the Lanier g o v e r n e d by 6-5-570 et defendants the seq., t h a t R o b e r t s had argued Alabama L e g a l Ala. Code that Services 1975 ("the f a i l e d to prove a v i o l a t i o n t h e ALSLA b e c a u s e she had n o t p r e s e n t e d expert testimony of as t o the a l l e g e d b r e a c h of the a p p l i c a b l e s t a n d a r d of c a r e , nor had she her shown t h a t , b u t f o r L a n i e r ' s a c t i o n s , t h e outcome o f c a s e w o u l d have b e e n d i f f e r e n t . argued that Roberts's The Lanier defendants also c l a i m s a g a i n s t them were b a r r e d by ALSLA's t w o - y e a r s t a t u t e o f l i m i t a t i o n s n o t d e m o n s t r a t e d t h a t she had and s u f f e r e d any the that Roberts had i n j u r y as a result f i r s t a d d r e s s w h e t h e r t h e ALSLA a p p l i e s t o t h e claims of L a n i e r ' s a c t i o n s . We against 1973, the Lanier provides: defendants. "There s h a l l be Section only one 6-5-573, A l a . f o r m and cause a c t i o n a g a i n s t l e g a l s e r v i c e p r o v i d e r s i n c o u r t s i n the of Alabama and i t shall be known 13 as the legal Code of State service 1100045 liability action and shall have t h e meaning as defined herein." Section 6-5-572(2), service provider" A l a . Code 1975, d e f i n e s a "legal as "[a]nyone l i c e n s e d t o p r a c t i c e law by t h e S t a t e o f Alabama o r engaged i n t h e p r a c t i c e o f law i n t h e S t a t e o f Alabama. The t e r m l e g a l s e r v i c e p r o v i d e r includes professional corporations, associations, and p a r t n e r s h i p s a n d members o f s u c h p r o f e s s i o n a l c o r p o r a t i o n s , a s s o c i a t i o n s , and p a r t n e r s h i p s and t h e p e r s o n s , f i r m s , o r c o r p o r a t i o n s e i t h e r employed by o r p e r f o r m i n g work o r s e r v i c e s f o r t h e b e n e f i t o f such p r o f e s s i o n a l c o r p o r a t i o n s , a s s o c i a t i o n s , and partnerships including, without limitation, law clerks, legal assistants, legal secretaries, i n v e s t i g a t o r s , p a r a l e g a l s , and c o u r i e r s . " Section 6-5-572(1), service l i a b i l i t y A l a . Code 1975, defines "legal a c t i o n " as "[a]ny action against a l e g a l service provider i n w h i c h i t i s a l l e g e d t h a t some i n j u r y o r damage was caused i n whole o r i n p a r t by t h e l e g a l s e r v i c e provider's v i o l a t i o n of the standard of care applicable to a legal service provider. A legal s e r v i c e l i a b i l i t y a c t i o n embraces a l l c l a i m s f o r i n j u r i e s o r damage[] o r w r o n g f u l d e a t h w h e t h e r i n contract or i n t o r t a n d w h e t h e r b a s e d on an i n t e n t i o n a l or unintentional a c t or omission. A l e g a l s e r v i c e s l i a b i l i t y a c t i o n e m b r a c e s any f o r m o f a c t i o n i n w h i c h a l i t i g a n t may s e e k l e g a l r e d r e s s f o r a wrong o r an i n j u r y a n d e v e r y l e g a l t h e o r y o f r e c o v e r y , w h e t h e r common l a w o r s t a t u t o r y , a v a i l a b l e t o a l i t i g a n t i n a c o u r t i n t h e S t a t e o f A l a b a m a now or i n t h e f u t u r e . " 14 1100045 Roberts argues that, pursuant t o t h i s Court's rationale i n F o g a r t y v. P a r k e r , Poe, Adams & B e r n s t e i n , L . L . P . , 961 So. 2d 784 ( A l a . 2 0 0 6 ) , L a n i e r was n o t a " l e g a l s e r v i c e provider" u n d e r t h e ALSLA b e c a u s e he was n o t l i c e n s e d t o p r a c t i c e l a w i n Alabama. her T h e r e f o r e , s h e a r g u e s , t h e ALSLA does n o t a p p l y t o claims against the Lanier defendants. Lanier that defendants argue t h e ALSLA a p p l i e s that In response, the F o g a r t y i s d i s t i n g u i s h a b l e and b e c a u s e L a n i e r was a d m i t t e d p r o h a c v i c e t o p r a c t i c e i n Alabama. T h i s Court r e c e n t l y addressed s i m i l a r i s s u e s i n Wachovia Bank, N.A. v . J o n e s , M o r r i s o n & Womack, P.C., 42 So. 3d 667 (Ala. was 2009). I n t h a t c a s e , W a c h o v i a Bank ( " W a c h o v i a " ) , b e i n g sued by N e a l Greene, f i l e d a third-party which complaint a g a i n s t , among o t h e r s , J o n e s , M o r r i s o n & Womack, P.C. ("Jones M o r r i s o n " ) , a l l e g i n g c l a i m s u n d e r t h e ALSLA. entered a summary judgment i n favor Wachovia's t h i r d - p a r t y c o m p l a i n t . reversed court. t h e judgment The t r i a l o f Jones M o r r i s o n on The C o u r t o f C i v i l a n d remanded t h e case court Appeals to the trial S o u t h T r u s t Bank v . J o n e s , M o r r i s o n , Womack & D e a r i n g , P.C., 939 So. 2d 885 ( A l a . C i v . App. 2 0 0 5 ) . trial c o u r t e n t e r e d a judgment as a m a t t e r 15 On remand, t h e o f l a w i n Jones 1100045 Morrison's favor, by e x p e r t the stating that " t h e Bank h a d f a i l e d t o p r o v e t e s t i m o n y t h e a p p l i c a b l e s t a n d a r d s o f care and t h a t lawyers had a l l e g e d l y breached those standards of care." W a c h o v i a , 42 So. 3d a t 673-74. On appeal, Jones Morrison, Wachovia among appealed. other things, argued t h a t i t was n o t s u b j e c t t o l i a b i l i t y u n d e r t h e ALSLA " b e c a u s e its attorneys therefore, were n o t l i c e n s e d t o p r a c t i c e i n A l a b a m a " a n d , " i t was n o t a c t i n g as a ' l e g a l service provider' under t h e c i r c u m s t a n c e s o f t h [ a t ] case." W a c h o v i a , 42 So. 3d at i n support 675. Jones argument. noting cited that the appellees things, that L.L.P. of Parker, Poe, Adams ( " P a r k e r Poe") -- h a d a r g u e d , among because, i n the p r a c t i c e claims according should have b e e n t o Parker o f law i n Alabama. We other brought Poe, i t was went on t o state: " I n r e j e c t i n g P a r k e r Poe's a r g u m e n t t h a t i t was 'engaged i n t h e p r a c t i c e o f l a w i n t h e S t a t e o f Alabama,' t h i s C o u r t s t a t e d : "'Furthermore, i t appears t h a t the A L S L A a p p l i e s o n l y t o a t t o r n e y s who a r e licensed to practice law i n Alabama. P a r k e r Poe a r g u e s t h a t i t was "engaged i n 16 i t s our d e c i s i o n i n Fogarty, i n t h a t case the Fogartys' t h e ALSLA engaged Fogarty I n W a c h o v i a , we d i s c u s s e d & Bernstein, under Morrison 1100045 the p r a c t i c e of law i n the State of A l a b a m a " and, t h u s , f a l l s u n d e r t h e s e c o n d p r o n g of the ALSLA's d e f i n i t i o n of a l e g a l s e r v i c e p r o v i d e r . However, t h i s C o u r t has e x p r e s s l y s t a t e d t h a t " [ t ] h e p l a i n language o f § 6 - 5 - 5 7 2 ( 2 ) , as w e l l as t h a t o f t h e other p o r t i o n s of the ALSLA, clearly i n d i c a t e s t h a t the L e g i s l a t u r e intended f o r t h e A L S L A t o a p p l y o n l y t o l a w y e r s and t o e n t i t i e s t h a t a r e composed o f members who are l i c e n s e d t o p r a c t i c e law w i t h i n the S t a t e o f A l a b a m a . " A l a b a m a E d u c . A s s ' n v. N e l s o n , 770 So. 2d 1057, 1059 ( A l a . 2000) (emphasis added). " ' A c c o r d i n g t o the c o m p l a i n t , Jones and Baron[, two a t t o r n e y s employed by P a r k e r Poe,] were n o t l i c e n s e d t o p r a c t i c e l a w w i t h i n t h e S t a t e o f A l a b a m a , and P a r k e r Poe does n o t dispute this allegation. T h u s , t h e ALSLA w o u l d n o t a p p l y t o t h e c l a i m s a g a i n s t P a r k e r Poe, and t h e ALSLA could not be the Fogartys' exclusive remedy. ... ' "961 So. 2d a t 789. "We d i s a g r e e w i t h J o n e s M o r r i s o n ' s c o n t e n t i o n t h a t u n d e r ... F o g a r t y i t c a n n o t be h e l d l i a b l e u n d e r t h e ALSLA b e c a u s e none o f i t s a t t o r n e y s were licensed to practice law w i t h i n the State of Alabama. F i r s t , u n l i k e ... P a r k e r Poe i n F o g a r t y , Jones Morrison does not dispute that i t was p r o v i d i n g l e g a l s e r v i c e s t o t h e Bank i n t h e p r e s e n t c a s e . ... "Second, t o p r o v i d e t h o s e l e g a l s e r v i c e s t o the Bank, J o n e s M o r r i s o n i n t h e p r e s e n t c a s e a g r e e d t o perform work o r s e r v i c e s -such as relaying i n f o r m a t i o n between [Stokes, C l i n t o n , Fleming & S h e r l i n g ('Stokes C l i n t o n ' ) ] and t h e Bank r e g a r d i n g t h e l e g a l a c t i o n t o c o l l e c t t h e d e b t -- f o r t h e 17 1100045 b e n e f i t of the Stokes C l i n t o n f i r m i n i t s r e n d e r i n g o f l e g a l s e r v i c e s t o t h e Bank. S t o k e s C l i n t o n , as n o t e d , i s a l e g a l - s e r v i c e p r o v i d e r u n d e r t h e ALSLA. Thus, u n l i k e Fogarty, i n the present case an a t t o r n e y - c l i e n t r e l a t i o n s h i p e x i s t e d between Jones Morrison and the Bank, and in offering legal s e r v i c e s t o t h e Bank, J o n e s M o r r i s o n s o u g h t the a s s i s t a n c e o f S t o k e s C l i n t o n and a g r e e d t o p e r f o r m work f o r t h e b e n e f i t o f S t o k e s C l i n t o n , i t s e l f a 'legal-service provider' under the ALSL ALSLA. Consequently, the q u e s t i o n p r e s e n t e d i n t h i s case w h e t h e r t h e ALSLA a p p l i e s to claims a g a i n s t an a t t o r n e y n o t l i c e n s e d i n A l a b a m a who, i n c o n j u n c t i o n w i t h an a t t o r n e y l i c e n s e d t o p r a c t i c e i n A l a b a m a , p e r f o r m s l e g a l s e r v i c e s i n A l a b a m a f o r a c l i e n t -¬ was n o t a t i s s u e i n F o g a r t y .... Thus, t o the e x t e n t t h a t language i n Fogarty . suggests that t h e ALSLA c o u l d n o t a p p l y i n s u c h a s c e n a r i o , that l a n g u a g e was u n n e c e s s a r y t o t h e h o l d i n g [ ] i n F o g a r t y and i s n o t c o n t r o l l i n g h e r e . " W a c h o v i a , 42 So. 3d a t 677-78. We went on to conclude: "Stokes C l i n t o n i s a ' l e g a l s e r v i c e p r o v i d e r ' under § 6-5-572(2) of the ALSLA because i t is a 'professional corporation[], association[], [or] p a r t n e r s h i p [ ] ' t h a t i s ' l i c e n s e d t o p r a c t i c e law by the S t a t e of Alabama or engaged i n the p r a c t i c e of law i n t h e S t a t e o f A l a b a m a . ' In view of i t s arrangement w i t h the Stokes C l i n t o n f i r m , Jones M o r r i s o n meets t h a t p a r t o f t h e d e f i n i t i o n o f a ' l e g a l s e r v i c e p r o v i d e r ' t h a t i n c l u d e s 'the p e r s o n s , firms, or corporations either employed by or p e r f o r m i n g work o r s e r v i c e s f o r t h e b e n e f i t o f s u c h professional corporations, associations, and partnerships including, without limitation, law clerks, legal assistants, legal secretaries, i n v e s t i g a t o r s , p a r a l e g a l s , and c o u r i e r s ' ( e m p h a s i s added). "The Morrison Bank's a b o v e - s t a t e d c l a i m s a g a i n s t Jones arise out of the attorney-client 18 1100045 relationship that t h e Bank and o u t l e g a l services to the Bank's c l a i m s W a c h o v i a , 42 The e x i s t e d b e t w e e n J o n e s M o r r i s o n and of Jones M o r r i s o n ' s p r o v i s i o n of t h e Bank. Thus, t h e ALSLA g o v e r n s a g a i n s t Jones M o r r i s o n . " So. 3d a t 678-79 p o s i t i o n of the (footnote Lanier omitted). defendants in this v e r y s i m i l a r to the p o s i t i o n of Jones M o r r i s o n is undisputed that Roberts's "claims case is i n Wachovia. I t against [the Lanier d e f e n d a n t s ] a r i s e out of the a t t o r n e y - c l i e n t r e l a t i o n s h i p t h a t e x i s t e d b e t w e e n [ t h e L a n i e r d e f e n d a n t s ] and of [the Lanier [Roberts]." defendants'] W a c h o v i a , 42 Moreover, Lanier representing Roberts. i n A l a b a m a and t h e ALSLA. p r o v i s i o n of So. 3d a t associated [Roberts] legal and services to 678. Stallings to assist him in S t a l l i n g s i s l i c e n s e d to p r a c t i c e law i s , therefore, a legal-service provider Lanier's b i l l i n g statements, show t h a t , u n t i l out h i s withdrawal which are under undisputed, i n M a r c h 2007, L a n i e r w o r k e d w i t h S t a l l i n g s i n r e p r e s e n t i n g R o b e r t s on t h e p e n d i n g c r i m i n a l charge. The statements indicate that, among o t h e r things, Lanier performed l e g a l research, p a r t i c i p a t e d i n preparations for the preliminary noncapital-murder hearing charge, other paperwork prepared in and by the district reviewed Stallings. 19 various court on the motions and 1100045 The question presented in this c a s e , as " w h e t h e r t h e ALSLA a p p l i e s t o c l a i m s Alabama who, licensed in licensed t o p r a c t i c e i n Alabama, performs Alabama f o r a c l i e n t . " noted in Fogarty," ... Wachovia, and, Fogarty We "meets this question an legal services "was not at Wachovia, As we issue in such the ALSLA l a n g u a g e was i s not part of could not apply unnecessary to the c o n t r o l l i n g here." the that includes e m p l o y e d by benefit in Fogarty and that attorney 3d a t 677-78. 42 of'" a 42 So. Roberts's claims or definition So. a performing at against 678. work or provider Therefore, the L a n i e r 3d a t 'legal in 678. service corporations services under the a i n Wachovia, 'the p e r s o n s , f i r m s , o r legal-service 3d of in holding[] conclude t h a t L a n i e r , l i k e Jones M o r r i s o n provider' either W a c h o v i a , 42 So. with not that that ... conjunction an a t t o r n e y " [ t ] h u s , to the e x t e n t t h a t language i n suggests scenario, in against i n Wachovia, i s for the the ALSLA. ALSLA governs defendants. 6 The L a n i e r defendants a l s o argue t h a t R o b e r t s ' s c l a i m s a g a i n s t them f a l l w i t h i n t h e s c o p e o f t h e ALSLA b e c a u s e L a n i e r was a d m i t t e d p r o hac v i c e i n A u g u s t 2006. I t seems c l e a r t h a t , a f t e r he o b t a i n e d p r o hac v i c e s t a t u s , L a n i e r q u a l i f i e d as a " l e g a l - s e r v i c e p r o v i d e r " u n d e r t h e ALSLA. However, R o b e r t s ' s c l a i m s a r i s e out of a l l e g e d m i s c o n d u c t t h a t i s s a i d to have occurred before Lanier obtained such status. 6 20 1100045 Having determined that against the Lanier the ALSLA a p p l i e s defendants, we now to address the whether L a n i e r d e f e n d a n t s were e n t i t l e d t o a summary j u d g m e n t on claims. judgment In her s e c o n d amended c o m p l a i n t , declaring nonrefundable-retainer that, among language in Roberts she those sought a things, the the contract was also alleged that Lanier "breached h i s duty of care the other u n c o n s c i o n a b l e and t h a t L a n i e r had e n g a g e d i n t h e p r a c t i c e of law; claims unauthorized had to Roberts i n : "(a) m i s r e p r e s e n t i n g t o R o b e r t s t h a t he was q u a l i f i e d t o r e p r e s e n t h e r i n t h e S t a t e o f A l a b a m a on t h e p e n d i n g c r i m i n a l charge; "(b) d e c e i v i n g R o b e r t s i n t o e x e c u t i n g a 'non-refundable retainer' employment c o n t r a c t u n d e r t h e p r e t e n s e t h a t s u c h an a g r e e m e n t was v a l i d and l a w f u l ; " [ ( c ) ] misrepresenting to Roberts that u n d e r no c i r c u m s t a n c e , e v e n i f he were t e r m i n a t e d , w o u l d R o b e r t s be e n t i t l e d t o a r e f u n d of fees because the r e t a i n e r of $50,000 was ' n o n - r e f u n d a b l e ' ; and Nevertheless, b e c a u s e we have h e l d t h a t R o b e r t s ' s claims a g a i n s t the L a n i e r defendants are otherwise s u b j e c t to the ALSLA, we n e e d n o t c o n s i d e r what, i f any, r e t r o a c t i v e e f f e c t L a n i e r ' s p r o hac v i c e a d m i s s i o n had on t h e a p p l i c a b i l i t y o f t h e ALSLA t o R o b e r t s ' s c l a i m s . 21 1100045 " [ ( d ) ] c o n v e r t i n g funds b e l o n g i n g Roberts, in the approximate sum $50,000.00, t o h i s own p e r s o n a l use." to of Roberts argues t h a t the c i r c u i t c o u r t e r r e d i n d i s m i s s i n g her request refundable for a retainer" u n c o n s c i o n a b l e and Lanier had Alabama. judgment 7 The defendants' language against engaged first declaring in concessions the the unlawful i s moot that the in practice light of of the "nonrefundable unenforceable as written. The second issue L a n i e r ' s a c t i o n s c o n s t i t u t e d the u n a u t h o r i z e d -- i s barred Section pertinent by the s t a t u t e of l i m i t a t i o n s 6-5-574(a), Ala. Code whether in Lanier retainer" -- contract whether p r a c t i c e of i n the 1975, was law l a n g u a g e i s p r o h i b i t e d u n d e r A l a b a m a law and t h a t t h e was "non- contract A l a b a m a p u b l i c p o l i c y and the issue in whether ALSLA. provides, law 8 in part: R o b e r t s a l s o r e q u e s t e d a judgment d e c l a r i n g t h a t L a n i e r had v i o l a t e d s e v e r a l o f t h e A l a b a m a R u l e s o f P r o f e s s i o n a l C o n d u c t and t h a t t h e c o n t r a c t was v o i d b e c a u s e L a n i e r was n o t l i c e n s e d t o p r a c t i c e law i n A l a b a m a a t t h e t i m e t h e c o n t r a c t was e x e c u t e d . R o b e r t s has n o t r a i s e d t h e s e i s s u e s on a p p e a l ; t h e r e f o r e , we do n o t a d d r e s s them. 7 R o b e r t s c o n c e d e s t h a t " [ i ] f t h e L a n i e r d e f e n d a n t s were s u b j e c t t o t h e ALSLA, [ t h e n t h i s ] c l a i m w o u l d be subsumed i n t o t h e ALSLA." R o b e r t s ' s r e p l y b r i e f , a t 13. 8 22 1100045 " A l l legal service l i a b i l i t y actions against a legal s e r v i c e p r o v i d e r must be commenced w i t h i n two y e a r s a f t e r the a c t or omission or f a i l u r e g i v i n g r i s e to t h e c l a i m , and n o t a f t e r w a r d s ; p r o v i d e d , t h a t i f t h e c a u s e o f a c t i o n i s n o t d i s c o v e r e d and c o u l d n o t r e a s o n a b l y have been d i s c o v e r e d w i t h i n s u c h p e r i o d , t h e n t h e a c t i o n may be commenced w i t h i n s i x months from the date of such d i s c o v e r y or the date of discovery of f a c t s which would reasonably l e a d to such d i s c o v e r y , whichever i s e a r l i e r " The a c t o r o m i s s i o n a judicial unauthorized g i v i n g r i s e to Roberts's request f o r declaration that Lanier p r a c t i c e of law o c c u r r e d had engaged in upon t h e e x e c u t i o n t h e c o n t r a c t i n A p r i l 2 0 0 6 , and R o b e r t s s a y s t h a t she on A p r i l 2 7 , 2 0 0 6 , t h a t L a n i e r was law i n Alabama. However, Roberts the of learned not l i c e n s e d to p r a c t i c e d i d not f i l e the present a c t i o n u n t i l F e b r u a r y 2009, w e l l a f t e r t h e t w o - y e a r s t a t u t e o f limitations had e x p i r e d . For these reasons, we affirm c i r c u i t c o u r t ' s judgment i n t h e L a n i e r d e f e n d a n t s ' f a v o r regard to the request t o h e r t h a t he was q u a l i f i e d t o of care represent h e r i n A l a b a m a on t h e n o n c a p i t a l - m u r d e r c h a r g e i s a l s o by the ALSLA's misrepresentation with f o r a d e c l a r a t o r y judgment. Roberts's c l a i m t h a t L a n i e r breached the standard by m i s r e p r e s e n t i n g the statute of took place limitations. in April was e x e c u t e d . By h e r own a d m i s s i o n , 23 This barred alleged 2006 when t h e c o n t r a c t R o b e r t s knew by May 2006 1100045 t h a t L a n i e r was not l i c e n s e d t o p r a c t i c e law i n Alabama, that L a n i e r had a s s o c i a t e d S t a l l i n g s as l o c a l c o u n s e l , and t h a t w o u l d have t o e x e c u t e a s e p a r a t e Thus, t h e t w o - y e a r s t a t u t e o f l i m i t a t i o n s had F e b r u a r y 2009 w i t h circuit court's Lanier respect to t h i s summary j u d g m e n t f a v o r as t o t h i s The fee agreement w i t h into defendants executing misrepresented any argued of the employment, and that use limitations. expired and we Lanier the invalid -- she retainer he were in their summary-judgment would not fee i f converted also contract, she by argues entitled to funds the that he terminated Roberts's barred However, R o b e r t s be his statute of "the[se] at act, omission, the prior to run at or f a i l u r e g i v i n g r i s e to the claims, the acts or 24 claims contained 53-54. As n o t e d p r e v i o u s l y , t h e t w o - y e a r s t a t u t e o f 6-5-574(a) g e n e r a l l y b e g i n s his for i n § 6-5-574." Roberts's b r i e f , deceived that 'saving p r o v i s i o n ' § the defendants' have b e e n t i m e l y f i l e d u n d e r t h e in before affirm c l a i m s -- t h a t L a n i e r to Roberts that refund personal i n the Stallings. claim. motion that Roberts's remaining her claim, she omissions the limitations time claim. of the As with underlying the 1100045 r e m a i n i n g c l a i m s o c c u r r e d i n A p r i l and May years before Roberts f i l e d the c o n t r a c t on withdrew to April two R o b e r t s and L a n i e r e x e c u t e d 2006. A few days later, Lanier $50,000 f r o m R o b e r t s ' s b a n k a c c o u n t s and, a c c o r d i n g L a n i e r ' s d e p o s i t i o n t e s t i m o n y , d e p o s i t e d t h e money i n t h e f i r m ' s bank a c c o u n t . May 21, suit. 2006, more t h a n A c c o r d i n g t o R o b e r t s , L a n i e r t o l d h e r on 1, 2006, t h a t , e v e n i f she t e r m i n a t e d h i s r e p r e s e n t a t i o n , she w o u l d n o t e n t i t l e d w h i c h he s a i d was t o a r e f u n d o f any p a r t o f t h e $50,000, a "nonrefundable retainer." However, § 6-5-574(a) a l s o p r o v i d e s " t h a t i f t h e c a u s e o f action i s n o t d i s c o v e r e d and discovered within action may be c o u l d n o t r e a s o n a b l y have b e e n [the two-year l i m i t a t i o n s p e r i o d ] , then the commenced w i t h i n s i x months from the date such d i s c o v e r y or the date of d i s c o v e r y of f a c t s which reasonably lead to such d i s c o v e r y , whichever is of would earlier." R o b e r t s a r g u e s t h a t she l e a r n e d f o r t h e f i r s t t i m e on F e b r u a r y 15, 2009, t h a t the "nonrefundable retainer" language of the c o n t r a c t was u n l a w f u l i n A l a b a m a and t h a t L a n i e r ' s r e l i a n c e on t h a t l a n g u a g e i n r e f u s i n g t o r e f u n d t o h e r any o f t h e r e t a i n e r was improper. She filed her original later. 25 complaint three days 1100045 Roberts the a l s o argues t h a t she " h a d no r e a s o n t o know o f m i s c o n d u c t committed by L a n i e r nor could the misconduct reasonably have b e e n d i s c o v e r e d p r i o r t o [ F e b r u a r y 1 5 , 2 0 0 9 ] . " Roberts's brief, at indicating that Roberts 54-55. was We aware r e t a i n e r l a n g u a g e was u n e n f o r c e a b l e Of course, when a p a r t y discovered question 3d 23, remaining an 31 found no evidence that the nonrefundable- before F e b r u a r y 1 5 , 2009. a c t u a l l y discovered alleged f o rthe jury. have misrepresentation or should is have generally a See J o n e s v . A l f a Mut. I n s . Co., 1 So. ( A l a . 2008) . Therefore, i t appears that the c l a i m s may f a l l w i t h i n t h e s a v i n g s p r o v i s i o n o f § 6- 5-574(a) a n d a r e n o t b a r r e d b y t h e s t a t u t e o f l i m i t a t i o n s as a matter of law. The L a n i e r d e f e n d a n t s a r g u e t h a t t h r o u g h t h e e x e r c i s e o f ordinary diligence remaining claims Roberts before could have discovered the statute of l i m i t a t i o n s They a r g u e t h a t R o b e r t s c o u l d have q u e s t i o n e d these expired. S t a l l i n g s , the d i s t r i c t a t t o r n e y , o r the c i r c u i t c o u r t about L a n i e r ' s a l l e g e d statements regarding the e f f e c t of the language i n the c o n t r a c t . not directed this Court nonrefundable-retainer However, t h e L a n i e r d e f e n d a n t s have to any 26 evidence indicating that 1100045 Roberts had, before Lanier's alleged February 15, 2009, representations that any r e a s o n the t o doubt nonrefundable- r e t a i n e r l a n g u a g e i n t h e c o n t r a c t was v a l i d a n d t h a t , b e c a u s e o f t h a t l a n g u a g e , she w o u l d n o t be e n t i t l e d t o a r e f u n d i f she terminated of h i s employment. ordinary verification regarding diligence We c a n n o t a g r e e t h a t t h e e x e r c i s e requires of representations the v a l i d i t y a client t o seek made b y h i s o r h e r a t t o r n e y o r meaning o f terms c l i e n t employment c o n t r a c t . independent i n an attorney- 9 The L a n i e r defendants a l s o argue t h a t Roberts d e f e a t s h e r own c l a i m t h a t t h e a l l e g e d m i s c o n d u c t c o u l d n o t have b e e n d i s c o v e r e d b e f o r e F e b r u a r y 2009 b y a r g u i n g t h a t no e x p e r t testimony i s needed t o prove t h a t t h e L a n i e r defendants breached the a p p l i c a b l e standard of care. They a r g u e : 9 " [ R o b e r t s ] i n s i s t s t h a t ... no e x p e r t t e s t i m o n y i s n e e d e d t o p r o v e t h e v i o l a t i v e n a t u r e o f t h e 'nonr e f u n d a b l e r e t a i n e r ' c l a u s e , and o f L a n i e r ' s a l l e g e d m i s r e p r e s e n t a t i o n , b e c a u s e a n y l a y j u r o r c o u l d make t h a t d e t e r m i n a t i o n w i t h o u t t h e n e e d f o r an e x p e r t . ... I n o t h e r w o r d s , 'anybody,' w h e t h e r an a t t o r n e y or n o t , c o u l d t e l l r e a d i l y t h a t a nonrefundable r e t a i n e r c o n t r a c t , a n d an a l l e g a t i o n t h a t s u c h a c o n t r a c t i s v a l i d and e n f o r c e a b l e , i s wrong. " I f t h a t i s t h e case, then [Roberts] (who h a s two d e g r e e s i n r a d i o l o g i c a l t e c h n i q u e s ) certainly s h o u l d have r e a l i z e d t h a t , o r s h o u l d have b e e n p u t on i n q u i r y t o l o o k i n t o t h e m a t t e r f u r t h e r , a t t h e v e r y l e a s t ; and because o f t h e o b v i o u s nature o f this representation (by [Roberts's] own c o n t e n t i o n s ) , s h e s h o u l d have known a n d r e a l i z e d t h e 27 1100045 The present Lanier defendants also argue that s u b s t a n t i a l e v i d e n c e s h o w i n g t h a t she Roberts did not is entitled to t h e b e n e f i t o f t h e p r o v i s i o n o f § 6-5-574(a) t h a t a l l o w s an otherwise u n t i m e l y a c t i o n t o be f i l e d s i x months f r o m t h e d a t e of d i s c o v e r y . However, t h e record contains an affidavit in which Roberts s t a t e s , i n p e r t i n e n t p a r t : " B e c a u s e I saw no n e e d o f h a v i n g two a t t o r n e y s on my case and i n c u r r i n g double the expense a s s o c i a t e d w i t h two a t t o r n e y s , c o u p l e d w i t h t h e f a c t t h a t I f e l t L a n i e r had d e c e i v e d me i n t o r e t a i n i n g h i s s e r v i c e s , on o r a b o u t May 1, 2006, d u r i n g a meeting w i t h L a n i e r at the Cherokee County J a i l , I t e r m i n a t e d L a n i e r and r e q u e s t e d a r e f u n d of the $50,000 p r e v i o u s l y t a k e n by L a n i e r as h i s 'nonrefundable' r e t a i n e r . f a l s i t y o f t h e s t a t e m e n t , j u s t as any l a y j u r o r c o u l d have, a c c o r d i n g t o her. Thus, n o t o n l y has she t e s t i f i e d h e r s e l f o u t o f a c a u s e o f a c t i o n f o r f r a u d , she has d e s t r o y e d h e r o p p o r t u n i t y t o r e l y on the 'savings' provisions of the statutes of limitations. She s h o u l d n o t be p e r m i t t e d t o use t h i s f e i g n e d 'ignorance' to f u r t h e r her cause." The Lanier defendants' brief, at 31-32. The Lanier defendants' argument i s d i s i n g e n u o u s and w i t h o u t m e r i t . R o b e r t s does n o t a r g u e t h a t a j u r y c o u l d t e l l t h a t t h e n o n r e f u n d a b l e - r e t a i n e r l a n g u a g e was u n l a w f u l on i t s face. I n s t e a d , she c l a i m s t h a t , i n l i g h t o f t h e L a n i e r defendants' concession that the nonrefundable-retainer l a n g u a g e i s i n v a l i d and u n e n f o r c e a b l e i n A l a b a m a , a j u r y c o u l d determine without expert testimony that Lanier's alleged m i s r e p r e s e n t a t i o n t o the c o n t r a r y c o n s t i t u t e d a b r e a c h of the standard of care. 28 1100045 " I n r e s p o n s e , L a n i e r t o l d me t h a t b a s e d on t h e ' n o n - r e f u n d a b l e ' r e t a i n e r l a n g u a g e o f h i s employment c o n t r a c t t h a t I was n o t e n t i t l e d t o a r e f u n d o f any f e e s . L a n i e r f u r t h e r e x p l a i n e d t h a t I m i g h t as w e l l l e t him c o n t i n u e w o r k i n g on my c a s e s i n c e I w o u l d n o t be r e c e i v i n g a r e f u n d o f any f e e s e v e n i f he was terminated. 4- ^ -i^i-v^ A 1^ -^ 4- r-s ^ " I a c c e p t e d L a n i e r ' s r e p r e s e n t a t i o n s as I had no r e a s o n t o b e l i e v e t h e r e was a n y t h i n g i m p r o p e r a b o u t the 'non-refundable' r e t a i n e r language of L a n i e r ' s employment c o n t r a c t a t t h a t t i m e , o r t h a t L a n i e r was prohibited from r e t a i n i n g the 'non-refundable' retainer despite his termination. " B a s e d on L a n i e r ' s r e p r e s e n t a t i o n s , I a g r e e d L a n i e r c o u l d c o n t i n u e on my c a s e u n t i l s u c h t i m e as his billable hours equaled $50,000, o r I was i n d i c t e d f o r c a p i t a l murder, w h i c h e v e r occurred first. "But f o r the fraudulent representations of L a n i e r , I w o u l d n o t have p a i d L a n i e r a $50,000 'nonr e f u n d a b l e ' r e t a i n e r , n o r w o u l d I have p e r m i t t e d him t o c o n t i n u e on my c a s e a f t e r t e r m i n a t i n g him and d e m a n d i n g a r e f u n d o f t h e $50,000 ' n o n - r e f u n d a b l e ' retainer." As the L a n i e r defendants note, e v i d e n c e o f s u c h w e i g h t and " s u b s t a n t i a l evidence i s q u a l i t y that fair-minded i n t h e e x e r c i s e o f i m p a r t i a l j u d g m e n t can r e a s o n a b l y e x i s t e n c e o f t h e f a c t s o u g h t t o be p r o v e d . " West v. L i f e Assur. 871 Co. of F l o r i d a , 547 29 So. 2d 870, persons infer the Founders ( A l a . 1989). 1100045 Roberts's affidavit testimony i s sufficient t o meet this s t a n d a r d as t o t h e r e m a i n i n g c l a i m s . The L a n i e r d e f e n d a n t s a l s o a r g u e d t h a t t h e y were to a summary j u d g m e n t b e c a u s e R o b e r t s expert testimony standard of care. fall within requiring that 1 0 Lanier Roberts had f a i l e d t o present had breached argues entitled the applicable that her remaining claims " t h e common s e n s e e x c e p t i o n t o t h e g e n e r a l expert Roberts's b r i e f , testimony i n a legal malpractice rule action." a t 50. T h i s C o u r t h a s s t a t e d " t h a t an e x c e p t i o n t o t h e g e n e r a l requirement that a plaintiff support of a legal-malpractice service p r o v i d e r ' s want present claim of s k i l l expert occurs or lack testimony i n where a legal- of care i s so a p p a r e n t a s t o be u n d e r s t o o d b y a l a y p e r s o n a n d r e q u i r e s o n l y common k n o w l e d g e a n d e x p e r i e n c e t o u n d e r s t a n d i t . " v. W a t t e r s , 896 So. 2d 385, 394 ( A l a . 2 0 0 4 ) . Valentine Roberts argues: "[T]he j u r y w i l l decide whether L a n i e r breached t h e a p p l i c a b l e standard of care i n : "The s t a n d a r d o f c a r e a p p l i c a b l e t o a l e g a l service p r o v i d e r i s t h a t l e v e l o f such r e a s o n a b l e c a r e , s k i l l , and d i l i g e n c e as o t h e r s i m i l a r l y s i t u a t e d l e g a l s e r v i c e p r o v i d e r s i n t h e same g e n e r a l l i n e o f p r a c t i c e i n t h e same g e n e r a l l o c a l i t y o r d i n a r i l y have a n d e x e r c i s e i n a l i k e c a s e . " § 6-55 7 2 ( 3 ) a . , A l a . Code 1975. 10 30 1100045 "(a) d e c e i v i n g R o b e r t s i n t o e x e c u t i n g a 'non-refundable retainer' employment c o n t r a c t u n d e r t h e p r e t e n s e t h a t s u c h an a g r e e m e n t was v a l i d a n d l a w f u l ; "(b) m i s r e p r e s e n t i n g t o R o b e r t s t h a t u n d e r no c i r c u m s t a n c e , e v e n i f he were t e r m i n a t e d , w o u l d R o b e r t s be e n t i t l e d t o a r e f u n d o f fees because t h e r e t a i n e r of $50,000 was ' n o n - r e f u n d a b l e ' ; a n d "(c) c o n v e r t i n g funds b e l o n g i n g Roberts, i n the approximate sum $50,000.00, t o h i s own p e r s o n a l u s e . to of "None of these issues requires scientific, t e c h n i c a l , o r o t h e r s p e c i a l i z e d knowledge i n o r d e r f o r the t r i e r of f a c t t o determine whether the applicable s t a n d a r d o f c a r e was b r e a c h e d . A l a y p e r s o n u t i l i z i n g common k n o w l e d g e a n d e x p e r i e n c e can c e r t a i n l y make t h i s d e t e r m i n a t i o n . " Roberts's b r i e f , It a t 52. i s undisputed We that agree. contractual provisions for non- r e f u n d a b l e r e t a i n e r s a r e u n e n f o r c e a b l e i n Alabama and t h a t t h e L a n i e r d e f e n d a n t s were n o t e n t i t l e d t o keep a n y u n e a r n e d f e e s . It i s also undisputed that Lanier withdrew $50,000 from Roberts's accounts and has n o t r e f u n d e d any o f t h a t f e e even though, t o Roberts, Lanier's according employment s o o n a f t e r she a t t e m p t e d i t began. to terminate I f the jury finds that Lanier misrepresented t o Roberts that the nonrefundabler e t a i n e r language was v a l i d a n d t h a t she was n o t e n t i t l e d t o 31 1100045 a refund of any knowledge of and Therefore, provide a and breach we the conclude expert as Lanier retention applicable that testimony Roberts to the See i t could, also "common that of the standard was not remaining Valentine, defendants using determine Lanier's of the L a n i e r defendants. The retainer, experience," misrepresentations constituted the such retainer of care. required claims against supra. argued in their summary- j u d g m e n t m o t i o n (1) t h a t R o b e r t s had f a i l e d to prove that for standard the alleged violation of the to of care "but by d e f e n d a n t , t h e p l a i n t i f f w o u l d have a c h i e v e d a better or d i f f e r e n t that Roberts outcome i n h e r c a s e " ; and (2) f a i l e d t o show t h a t she had s u f f e r e d any the a l l e g e d misconduct. f i n d t h e s e a r g u m e n t s t o be merit as We the result, i n j u r y as a r e s u l t had of without well. F i r s t , R o b e r t s has n o t a l l e g e d t h a t L a n i e r ' s c o n d u c t w i t h r e g a r d to the u n d e r l y i n g c r i m i n a l matter i t s e l f f e l l below the standard of care. Instead, her claims are r e l a t e d to his c o n d u c t w i t h r e g a r d t o t h e t e r m s o f , and t h e f e e s c h a r g e d f o r , Lanier's employment under the 32 contract. Therefore, the 1100045 outcome o f t h e u n d e r l y i n g question criminal of wrongdoing i n t h i s Second, Roberts's "[b]ut f o r the would not retainer, have would testimony representations Lanier [she] a indicates Lanier, [she] of $50,000 have p e r m i t t e d that 'non-refundable' to continue on [ h e r ] c a s e a f t e r t e r m i n a t i n g him and demanding a r e f u n d o f the $50,000 nor paid the action. affidavit fraudulent case i s i r r e l e v a n t t o 'non-refundable' retainer." s u f f i c i e n t to create a question s u f f e r e d damage as "'The burden i s on showing t h a t there that i t is a result the entitled to This of L a n i e r ' s to (Ala. 2006) a judgment (quoting Thorough-Clean, Inc., 639 alleged Capital So. make a p r i m a as 2d 1349, a matter Co., 950 Alliance 1350 fact of So. Ins. (Ala. facie i n entering a summary j u d g m e n t i n f a v o r d e f e n d a n t s on R o b e r t s ' s c l a i m s 2d t o h e r t h a t t h e c o n t r a c t as w r i t t e n was (2) that Lanier misrepresented 33 v a l i d and to Roberts that 280, Co. v. 1994)). of the (1) t h a t L a n i e r and law.'" F o r t h e f o r e g o i n g r e a s o n s , we h o l d t h a t t h e c i r c u i t erred is misconduct. genuine i s s u e of m a t e r i a l A l a b a m a E l e c . Coop. v. B a i l e y ' s C o n s t r . 283 testimony o f f a c t as t o w h e t h e r R o b e r t s moving p a r t y i s no him court Lanier misrepresented enforceable; she was not 1100045 entitled t o any r e f u n d o f t h e r e t a i n e r ; converted Roberts's funds a n d (3) t h a t Lanier t o h i s p e r s o n a l u s e . As t o t h o s e c l a i m s , we r e v e r s e t h e c i r c u i t c o u r t ' s j u d g m e n t a n d remand t h e case f o r f u r t h e r p r o c e e d i n g s c o n s i s t e n t w i t h t h i s II. We now address summary j u d g m e n t s opinion. S t a l l i n g s and Coggin Roberts's arguments w i t h regard to the i n f a v o r o f S t a l l i n g s and C o g g i n . S t a l l i n g s and Coggin filed Although s e p a r a t e summary-judgment motions i n t h e c i r c u i t c o u r t , R o b e r t s a l l e g e s t h e same e r r o r a n d makes the same arguments as to both. Roberts argues that summary-judgment m o t i o n s f i l e d b y S t a l l i n g s a n d C o g g i n not i n conformity with therefore, the burden substantial summary j u d g m e n t [ s ] the trial shifted C i v . P., t o Roberts to "[were] [and,] produce Accordingly, [were] due t o be s u m m a r i l y d e n i e d and court erred to r e v e r s a l i n granting the motion[s]." Roberts's b r i e f , provides, never 56, A l a . R. evidence to defeat the motion[s]. the As Rule the Roberts a t 62. We notes, i n pertinent agree. Rule 56(c)(1), A l a . R. C i v . P., part: "The [summary-judgment] m o t i o n s h a l l be s u p p o r t e d b y a n a r r a t i v e summary o f what t h e movant c o n t e n d s t o be t h e u n d i s p u t e d m a t e r i a l f a c t s ; t h a t n a r r a t i v e summary may be s e t f o r t h i n t h e m o t i o n o r may be 34 1100045 a t t a c h e d as an e x h i b i t . The n a r r a t i v e summary s h a l l be s u p p o r t e d b y s p e c i f i c r e f e r e n c e s t o p l e a d i n g s , p o r t i o n s o f d i s c o v e r y m a t e r i a l s , o r a f f i d a v i t s and may i n c l u d e c i t a t i o n s t o l e g a l a u t h o r i t y . " Stallings's summary-judgment motion stated, in i t s entirety: " D e f e n d a n t , Rodney L o r i n g S t a l l i n g s , moves t h e C o u r t t o e n t e r , p u r s u a n t t o R u l e 56 o f t h e A l a b a m a R u l e s o f C i v i l P r o c e d u r e , a summary j u d g m e n t i n t h e Defendant's f a v o r d i s m i s s i n g t h e a c t i o n on t h e g r o u n d t h a t t h e r e i s no g e n u i n e i s s u e as t o any m a t e r i a l f a c t and t h a t t h e Defendant i s e n t i t l e d t o a j u d g m e n t as a m a t t e r o f l a w . " T h i s m o t i o n i s b a s e d upon t h e p l e a d i n g s , t h e d e p o s i t i o n s o f t h e p a r t i e s a n d upon t h e f a i l u r e o f the P l a i n t i f f t o p r o v i d e t o t h e D e f e n d a n t t h e name of any e x p e r t w h i c h she e x p e c t s t o c a l l i n s u p p o r t of t h e P l a i n t i f f ' s c l a i m a g a i n s t t h e D e f e n d a n t . "The D e f e n d a n t a d o p t s t h e b r i e f a n d argument s u b m i t t e d by t h e co-defendant, Steve L a n i e r , i n s u p p o r t o f h i s m o t i o n f o r summary j u d g m e n t . " C o g g i n ' s summary-judgment m o t i o n s i m i l a r l y p r o v i d e d , i n its entirety: "COMES NOW, Coggin & Stallings, LLC, ( d i s s o l v e d ) , and r e q u e s t [ s ] t h e C o u r t t o e n t e r , p u r s u a n t t o R u l e 56 o f t h e A l a b a m a R u l e s o f C i v i l Procedure, a summary judgment i n i t s favor d i s m i s s i n g t h e a c t i o n on t h e g r o u n d t h a t t h e r e i s no genuine i s s u e [ o f ] m a t e r i a l f a c t and Defendant i s e n t i t l e d t o a j u d g m e n t as a m a t t e r o f l a w . " T h i s m o t i o n i s b a s e d upon t h e p l e a d i n g s , t h e d e p o s i t i o n s o f t h e p a r t i e s , a n d upon t h e a b s e n c e o f any e x p e r t t e s t i m o n y t o e s t a b l i s h t h a t t h e D e f e n d a n t 35 1100045 f a i l e d t o meet t h e s t a n d a r d o f c a r e f o r r e n d e r i n g l e g a l s e r v i c e s i n Alabama. " D e f e n d a n t r e s p e c t f u l l y a d o p t s t h e b r i e f and argument of Co-Defendant, Steve L a n i e r , i n s u p p o r t of i t s summary j u d g m e n t m o t i o n . " N e i t h e r S t a l l i n g s ' s motion nor Coggin's motion contains any s t a t e m e n t o f f a c t s o r any d i s c u s s i o n o f R o b e r t s ' s c l a i m s . T h i s C o u r t has stated: "'The [summary-judgment] movant has t h e i n i t i a l burden of making a prima f a c i e showing t h a t t h e r e i s no g e n u i n e i s s u e o f m a t e r i a l f a c t ; i f t h e movant makes t h a t s h o w i n g , t h e b u r d e n t h e n s h i f t s t o t h e nonmovant t o p r e s e n t s u b s t a n t i a l e v i d e n c e o f e a c h e l e m e n t o f t h e c l a i m c h a l l e n g e d by t h e movant.' H a r p e r v. W i n s t o n C o u n t y , 892 So. 2d 346, 349 ( A l a . 2004) ( e m p h a s i s a d d e d ) . However, i f t h e movant does not s a t i s f y h i s i n i t i a l burden, ' t h e n he i s n o t e n t i t l e d t o j u d g m e n t . No d e f e n s e t o an i n s u f f i c i e n t showing i s r e q u i r e d . ' Ray v. M i d f i e l d P a r k , I n c . , 293 A l a . 609, 612, 308 So. 2d 686, 688 (1975) (emphasis added). 'A m o t i o n t h a t does n o t c o m p l y w i t h R u l e 5 6 ( c ) [ , A l a . R. C i v . P.,] does n o t r e q u i r e a r e s p o n s e i n d e f e n s e f r o m t h e nonmovant.' Horn v. F a d a l M a c h i n i n g C t r s . , LLC, 972 So. 2d 63, 70 ( A l a . 2 0 0 7 ) . S i m p l y s t a t e d , ' " [ a ] summary j u d g m e n t i s n o t p r o p e r i f t h e movant has n o t c o m p l i e d w i t h t h e r e q u i r e m e n t s o f R u l e 56."' 972 So. 2d a t 70 ( q u o t i n g N o r t h w e s t F l o r i d a T r u s s , I n c . v. B a l d w i n C o u n t y Comm'n, 782 So. 2d 274, 277 ( A l a . 2 0 0 0 ) ) . " White Sands Group, 1054-55 L.L.C. v. PRS I I , LLC, 998 So. 2d 1042, ( A l a . 2008). C o g g i n a r g u e s t h a t i t s summary-judgment m o t i o n w i t h Rule 56(c) because i t a t t a c h e d to i t s motion 36 complied "the b r i e f 1100045 and argument of Lanier, together with a l l submissions r e f e r e n c e d d e p o s i t i o n s of a l l p a r t i e s , " Coggin's b r i e f , at and incorporated them by reference. However, 1 1 as and 11, Roberts n o t e s , t h e L a n i e r d e f e n d a n t s made no m e n t i o n i n t h e i r summaryjudgment motion of Roberts's claims against Stallings or C o g g i n , n o r d i d t h e y p r e s e n t any f a c t s o r a r g u m e n t s r e l a t e d t o those c l a i m s . M e r e l y i n c o r p o r a t i n g by r e f e r e n c e a m o t i o n t h a t i n c l u d e d no m e n t i o n o f , o r f a c t s o r a r g u m e n t s r e l a t e d t o , the c l a i m s a g a i n s t them was and i n s u f f i c i e n t to b r i n g S t a l l i n g s ' s Coggin's motions i n t o compliance w i t h Rule 56(c). judgment movant challenge the does not sufficiency discharge of the not "A complied (Ala. of a burden with the requirements W h i t e S a n d s , 998 I n c . v. B a l d w i n 2000). of Rule 56." C o u n t y Comm'n, 782 Therefore, the circuit reverse So. those judgments and remand t h e So. court case 2d erred S t a l l i n g s has not f i l e d a brief with this 37 has 274, in Coggin. for further proceedings. 1 1 2d Northwest e n t e r i n g summary j u d g m e n t s i n f a v o r o f S t a l l i n g s and We to nonmovant's summary j u d g m e n t i s n o t p r o p e r i f t h e movant F l o r i d a Truss, 277 initial evidence c l a i m by s i m p l y i g n o r i n g t h e c l a i m . " a t 1055. his "A summary- Court. 1100045 Conclusion For the reasons court's with and stated summary j u d g m e n t regard with Roberts i n favor to Roberts's respect above, request we affirm of the Lanier the contract circuit defendants for a declaratory to her claim that Lanier a t the time the judgment misrepresented was e x e c u t e d that to he was q u a l i f i e d t o r e p r e s e n t h e r i n A l a b a m a on t h e n o n c a p i t a l - m u r d e r charge. However, we r e v e r s e in favor of the Lanier claims that Lanier under the pretense Lanier the c i r c u i t court's defendants with deceived that misrepresented her into regard to Roberts's executing the contract i t was v a l i d to Roberts summary j u d g m e n t and e n f o r c e a b l e , that she would that not be e n t i t l e d t o any r e f u n d o f t h e r e t a i n e r p a i d u n d e r t h e c o n t r a c t if h i s representation Roberts's funds was terminated, f o r h i s personal use. and t h a t We took reverse the of S t a l l i n g s and also circuit court's Coggin. We remand t h e c a s e f o r f u r t h e r p r o c e e d i n g s c o n s i s t e n t with this summary j u d g m e n t s i n f a v o r Lanier opinion. AFFIRMED IN PART; REVERSED IN PART; AND REMANDED. Cobb, C . J . , a n d S t u a r t , B o l i n , a n d M u r d o c k , J J . , c o n c u r . 38