Attorney malpractice claim is dismissed after delay in filing "speculative" damage claims
John Runco sued his lawyers for malpractice after he settled his divorce claim at mediation. At the mediation he had agreed to a spousal support judgment that was expressly made non-modifiable. When the economy hit a downturn, Runco argued that his attorneys should have sought to modify the stipulated decree and that they were negligent in representing him. His claims were summarily dismissed by the trial court.
The Court of Appeals pointed out that Michigan precedent allows a spouse to enter a binding support agreement not subject to modification, and that Runco's agreement was a clear and unequivocal element in an uncoerced settlement. His claims of misconduct by his attorneys failed to take into account his own promises and waivers and involved undue speculation about what might have been revealed if the attorneys had asked the Court for additional time to discover the origin of alleged marital assets. The Court also held that it was not an abuse of discretion for the trial judge to refuse to allow Runco's attorneys to file a late response to his original attorneys' motion for summary disposition. Runco had filed the original action on his own and did not retain counsel until after the motion was filed. While the Court was willing to excuse Runco's lack of familiarity with the court's electronicl filing system, it was unwilling to excuse the attorney's failure to investigate the court docket for existing deadlines when the attorney assumed responsibility for the file.