438 A.2d 896 (Me. 1981), Schneider v. Richardson

Citation:438 A.2d 896
Opinion Judge:GODFREY,
Party Name:Audrey M. SCHNEIDER v. Harrison L. RICHARDSON and William B. Troubh et al.
Attorney:T. A. Fitanides, Biddeford, Sheila J. Fine (orally), Ogunquit, for plaintiff. Pierce, Atwood, Scribner, Allen, Smith & Lancaster, Ralph I. Lancaster (orally), John J. O'Leary, Jr., Portland, for defendants.
Judge Panel:Before GODFREY, NICHOLS, ROBERTS, VIOLETTE and WATHEN, JJ.
Case Date:December 29, 1981
Court:Supreme Judicial Court of Maine

Page 896

438 A.2d 896 (Me. 1981)

Audrey M. SCHNEIDER

v.

Harrison L. RICHARDSON and William B. Troubh et al.

Supreme Judicial Court of Maine.

December 29, 1981

Argued Sept. 16, 1981.

T. A. Fitanides, Biddeford, Sheila J. Fine (orally), Ogunquit, for plaintiff.

Pierce, Atwood, Scribner, Allen, Smith & Lancaster, Ralph I. Lancaster (orally), John J. O'Leary, Jr., Portland, for defendants.

Before GODFREY, NICHOLS, ROBERTS, VIOLETTE and WATHEN, JJ.

GODFREY, Justice.

In February, 1970, Audrey Schneider began an action for divorce against her husband on the ground of cruel and abusive treatment. In that action she was represented by William Troubh, defendant-appellee in the present case. On Mrs. Schneider's behalf, Mr. Troubh negotiated a settlement agreement, which was incorporated in the final judgment of divorce on March 2, 1972. As a result of the settlement agreement, the divorce was uncontested. Six years later, Mrs. Schneider began a malpractice action against the defendants, alleging that they failed to apprise themselves fully as to the applicable law and to investigate adequately the financial status of Mr. Schneider before the divorce settlement. Averring that this negligence resulted in Mrs. Schneider's accepting a property settlement without being fully informed about the law and the facts, the complaint prayed for both compensatory and punitive damages.

This is the second appeal to the Law Court in this case. See Schneider v. Richardson, Me., 411 A.2d 656 (1979) (hereinafter referred to as "Schneider I"). The first trial resulted in a judgment for defendants, which this Court vacated, remanding the case for further proceedings

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and holding that the trial court had applied an incorrect legal standard. Schneider I, supra at 658. The trial court had ruled that in order for plaintiff to recover she must first show that she would have been granted a contested divorce. The Law Court found that a trial within a trial was unnecessary:

All that was necessary for the plaintiff to prove was that a divorce judgment was entered on her complaint incorporating a property settlement, the quantum of which was the result of some negligent omission by the defendants. Whether Mrs. Schneider received appropriate legal advice when she signed the property agreement is the real issue in controversy.

Id. at 658.

In the second trial, one of plaintiff's...

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