Kaseberg v. Davis Wright Tremaine, LLPAnnotate this Case
Plaintiff Darrell Kasberg farmed piece of property leased from the Wheelers. The Wheelers agreed to loan Plaintiff money, using farmland he owned as collateral. When disagreements arose, the Wheelers threatened to evict Plaintiff from both his land and the leased land. On the day of the eviction trial, Plaintiff told his lawyer from Defendant firm Davis Wright Tremaine, LLP that he would be willing to give up his right to repurchase the leased farmland if the Wheelers would remove a crop lien placed on the land in time for him to meet a planting deadline. Plaintiff's lawyer met with the Wheelers' lawyer and they negotiated an oral settlement agreement. Plaintiff was not present at that meeting. The agreement required (amongst other things) that Plaintiff relinquish any interest or claim of interest in, and surrender possession of his collateral farmland. In exchange, the Wheelers agreed to dismiss their breach of contract action and to remove the lien. Plaintiff would later learn and inform his lawyer that the Wheelers had not removed the lien. This resulted in Plaintiff missing the planting deadline, and he lost an opportunity to receive both money from the sale of the crop and related government subsidies. Plaintiff wished to file an suit against the Wheelers for their handling of the crop lien, and approached his lawyer to handle the case. Though his lawyer lead Plaintiff to believe he would be successful in pursuit of the Wheelers, the lawyer had in reality given bad advice with regard to the statute of limitations that governed Plaintiff's suit. Plaintiff then initiated suit against his former lawyer and Defendant firm, alleging legal malpractice in handling the Wheeler lien dispute. The trial court decided that the facts did not present a genuine issue as to whether Plaintiff knew or should have known before he filed his action, that Defendant had negligently negotiated the oral settlement agreement. The court concluded that Plaintiff's action was thus time-barred. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded Plaintiff proffered evidence from which a jury could reasonably find that he did not have actual knowledge that his attorney's acts or omissions were a cause of his damages. As such, the Court reversed the trial court's holding and remanded the case for further proceedings.