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Sickler v. Kirby

Nebraska Court of Appeals
805 N.W.2d 675 (2011)


Facts

Steve Sickler and Cathy Mettenbrink (plaintiffs) hired an attorney, Jeffrey Orr, to represent them in franchising their closely held corporation, Baristas & Friends, Inc. (B & F). After numerous legal issues arose with B & F’s franchisees, Sickler asked Orr to seek a second legal opinion on the legality of B & F’s franchising documents. Orr and his associate, Bradley Holbrook, contracted with another attorney, Robert Kirby (defendant), to critique the documents. Kirby advised Orr and Holbrook that there were numerous serious defects in the franchising documents. When a franchisee then sued B & F, as well as Sickler and Mettenbrink personally, Holbrook represented Sickler and Mettenbrink but hired Kirby to represent B & F. Throughout the proceedings, Kirby only communicated with Holbrook and never had any direct contact with Sickler and Mettenbrink, despite their being B & F’s owners and directors. Kirby never notified Sickler and Mettenbrink, as the sole representatives of B & F, that the franchising documents Orr drafted were seriously flawed. After losing the franchisee suit, Sickler and Mettenbrink sued Kirby for malpractice. Kirby sought and received summary judgment on the argument that he had represented only B & F and that Sickler and Mettenbrink were not in fact his clients. Sickler and Mettenbrink appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Sievers, J.)

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