News Brief

McDevitt Obtains Pennsylvania Superior Court Affirmation of Summary Judgment Ruling in Wrongful Use of Civil Proceedings Action

September 13, 2018

William F. McDevitt (Partner-Philadelphia) represented an attorney accused of wrongful use of civil proceedings related to the filing of a cross-claim in a legal malpractice action. The twisted tale involved an underlying breach-of-contract action against legendary guitarist Link Wray and his Estate by a self-styled record producer. McDevitt’s client had a minimal role in the breach of contract action. The contract litigation was dismissed based upon an absence of damages.  The record produced sued his attorneys in malpractice. Some of the attorneys in the malpractice action joined the producer’s spouse, an attorney who helped negotiate the underlying recording contract and sent several letters directing counsel in the breach-of-contract action. Our client filed a cross-claim against the spouse. Eventually, the malpractice action against our client was dismissed and the cross-claim was rendered moot. The spouse promptly filed an action against all parties who joined and cross-claimed against her, as well as their respective counsel, arguing wrongful use of civil proceedings.

Bill obtained an early dismissal of our client, arguing that there was no "favorable determination" of the malpractice action with respect to the spouse. Discovery proceeded and the wrongful use case was eventually dismissed against all parties based on the "reasonableness" of joining the spouse with respect to the original malpractice allegations and demonstrated participation in the contract action. With respect to our client, the Superior Court affirmed the trial court's decision, holding that the facts of record clearly established that the spouse was a proper party in the underlying malpractice action and accepted Bill’s argument that the automatic dismissal of a cross-claim is not a "favorable termination" under Pennsylvania's Dragonetti Act.

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