Crist v. LoyaconoAnnotate this Case
Sixteen former clients (Clients) sued two lawyers (Lawyers) who had represented them in a mass-tort litigation, claiming the lawyers had breached their fiduciary duty by prematurely settling their cases in order to maximize attorney fees. Responding to a motion for summary judgment, the Clients produced a witness who testified that he had worked for the Lawyers and had settled numerous similar cases for much more than the Clients received. The witness also produced a document he prepared that the Lawyers used as a settlement template. The trial judge found the witness’ testimony and template were inadmissible as hearsay, and that the Clients could not prove they would have won their mass-tort case at trial in order to sue their Lawyers for breach of fiduciary duty. The trial court granted summary judgment against the Clients, and they appealed. The Supreme Court found that the trial court erred by requiring the Clients prove they would have won their mass-tort case at trial. Furthermore, the Court held that the witness’ testimony should not have been excluded at trial as hearsay. The Court found that the witness’ testimony was offered to establish facts already in the record: “[w]hile those decisions may have been based on [the witness’] opinions at the time, the decision-making process and the resultant [template] was” a matter of fact. The Court reversed the decision and remanded the case to the lower court for further proceedings.