Frei v. GoodsellAnnotate this Case
Appellant sued the trustee of his deceased wife's estate, claiming that the trustee improperly transferred Appellant's assets into the trust. Appellant also sought to disqualify the attorney who prepared the trust documents (Attorney) from representing the trustee based on the district court's conclusion that a prior attorney-client relationship existed between Appellant and Attorney, creating a conflict of interest. After the trust litigation settled, Appellant sued Attorney for legal malpractice due to Attorney's failure to verify Appellant's intentions before preparing he documents for his signature. Before trial, Appellant sought to preclude Attorney from arguing that an attorney-client relationship did not exist because, under the doctrine of issue preclusion, Attorney could not deny the existence of an attorney-client relationship. The district court denied Appellant's motion. During trial, the district court ruled that evidence of Appellant's intent in executing the documents was precluded by the parol evidence rule. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court properly refused to apply the doctrine of issue preclusion because the issue of an attorney-client relationship between Appellant and Attorney was not necessarily litigated in the trust action; and (2) the district court did not err in applying the parol evidence rule.