Disappointed divorcee cannot sue the lawyer he replaced for alleged errors committed jointly with replacement lawyer in another county
Dean Souden didn't like the outcome of his divorce. Against his attorney's advice, he had dismissed his original filing in Berrien County; when his wife then filed in Oakland County, Souden's attorney agreed to help Souden contest venue, and filed a limited appearance for that purpose, but recommended and arranged representation in Oakland County for the remainder of the case.
When Souden was disappointed in the outcome, he sued both attorneys for malpractice, under the theory that they were engaged in a "joint enterprise" by representing him together. The trial judge ruled this to be a question of fact for the jury, given the original attorney's continuing consultation throughout the case. The Court of Appeals overturned and granted summary disposition.
The higher court concluded that since the original attorney lacked "equal decision-making authority and responsibility," his continued participation in the divorce did not make him part of a joint enterprise and liable for the negligence of the new "lead" lawyer.