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Mirabito v. Liccardo

5 Cal. Rptr. 2d 571 (1992)

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Mirabito v. Liccardo

California Court of Appeal

5 Cal. Rptr. 2d 571 (1992)

Facts

Edmond Mirabito (plaintiff) invested the proceeds of his shoe-store business in property and stocks. Mirabito helped his cousin Leonard Liccardo (defendant) through law school and used Liccardo as an attorney to prepare leases and legal documents. When Mirabito consulted Liccardo about an estate plan, Liccardo persuaded Mirabito to lend him money and make other investments. Liccardo personally guaranteed the money would be returned. One large investment was in a movie venture in which Liccardo was personally involved. Liccardo did not inform Mirabito of his involvement in the venture or that he had filed for personal bankruptcy, and he never advised Mirabito to consult with independent counsel. The investments failed, and Liccardo could not repay Mirabito. Mirabito lost nearly $4 million. Mirabito sued Liccardo for fraud, alleging that Liccardo breached his fiduciary duties. The trial court permitted Mirabito to present the testimony of an attorney who specialized in ethics. The attorney testified that the ethics rules required a lawyer to fully disclose the circumstances surrounding an investment before entering into a business transaction with a client and to offer the client an opportunity to seek independent counsel. The court gave jury instructions patterned after the ethics rules. The jury returned a verdict for Mirabito. On appeal, Liccardo argued that the trial court erred in allowing testimony and jury instructions regarding the state bar’s rules of professional conduct, claiming the rules established disciplinary standards and not civil liability.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Peterson, J.)

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