Litvak v. Artusio
Although the intended beneficiary of a will may have a cause of action for the improper preparation of a testamentary document, no authority was cited for imposing such liability on attorneys who entered into a retainer for ordinary legal services. Marianne Artusio, professor and director of clinical programs at Touro College, filed a damages action in the District Court of Connecticut on behalf of Max Kaplan alleging that Kaplan's daughter, Myrna Lehrer, was guilty of theft and conversion. Following Kaplan's death, the district court dismissed the complaint. Rita Litvack, Kaplan's other daughter, became executrix of her father's estate. The district court denied with prejudice Litvack's motion to open and to substitute herself as named plaintiff. The judgment was affirmed on appeal. Litvack filed this action against Artusio and Touro College alleging that the defendants committed malpractice by failing to file a timely motion to substitute Litvak for Kaplan causing the action to be dismissed with prejudice. The trial court granted the defendants' motion to dismiss the action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction due to a lack of standing finding that the plaintiff's complaint was brought in her individual capacity, not as executrix of the Kaplan estate. The plaintiff appealed contending, first, that the court improperly dismissed her action because she sufficiently alleged a legal interest both as executrix of Kaplan's estate and in her individual capacity as an intended and foreseeable beneficiary of the legal services contract between Kaplan and the defendants. The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment. Both the summons and the allegations of the complaint demonstrated the propriety of the trial court's conclusion that the plaintiff sought recovery for alleged injuries suffered in her individual capacity. Suing in her individual capacity, rather than as executrix of the Kaplan estate, the plaintiff failed to establish a basis for her claim that she was either a third party beneficiary or a foreseeable beneficiary of the legal services contract. The trial court properly granted the motion to dismiss because the facts alleged in the complaint were insufficient to confer standing on the plaintiff to pursue her claim that the defendants' legal services contract with Kaplan made them accountable to her. Further, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying the plaintiff's postjudgment motion to amend her complaint.