Hirst Applegate attorneys, Erin Berry and Billie Addleman, recently won an appeal to the Wyoming Supreme Court. In that decision, the Court affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of firm’s client, a Wyoming attorney. Mattheis Company v. Mulligan, 2021 WY 14 (Wyo. 2021). In an earlier proceeding, the Plaintiff was involved in a liquor license revocation matter, where the Plaintiff submitted false information on its liquor license application, which it signed under penalty of perjury as true. At the revocation proceeding, the Plaintiff asserted an advice of counsel affirmative defense, arguing it relied on its attorneys legal advice in good faith. The district court rejected the affirmative defense and revoked Plaintiff’s liquor license.
Subsequently, Plaintiff filed suit against his former attorney, arguing the attorney’s conduct fell below the standard of care, causing the Plaintiff to lose its liquor license. The Wyoming Supreme Court granted Hirst Applegate’s motion for summary judgment on the doctrine of collateral estoppel, holding collateral estoppel barred the malpractice action. Since the court in the liquor license revocation proceeding previously held the Plaintiff did not rely in good faith on the alleged advice of counsel, the Plaintiff could not establish the attorney’s advice, whether it occurred or not, caused the Plaintiff to lose its liquor license. The Wyoming Supreme Court further held that the doctrine of in pari delicto barred the legal malpractice action. Pursuant to the doctrine of in pari delicto, a client’s deliberate act of lying under oath can preclude a legal malpractice action even if the attorney advises the client to engage in the wrongful act. In this case, even assuming the attorney advised the Plaintiff to submit false information on its liquor license application, due to the Plaintiff’s own wrongful actions of lying under oath, the malpractice action was barred.
Billie Addleman and Erin Berry both represent professionals in professional liability and licensing matters and can be reached at (307) 632-0541.