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[U] Lewis v. Pietragallo Bosick & Gordon, LLP

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

December 5, 2013

ROBERT J. LEWIS
v.
PIETRAGALLO BOSICK & GORDON, LLP, A PENNSYLVANIA LIMITED LIABILITY PARTNERSHIP, Appellant ROBERT J. LEWIS, Appellant
v.
PIETRAGALLO BOSICK & GORDON, LLP, A PENNSYLVANIA LIMITED LIABILITY PARTNERSHIP

NON-PRECEDENTIAL DECISION

Appeal from the Order, October 2, 2012, in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County Civil Division at No. GD 06-016521

Appeal from the Order, August 8, 2012, in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County Civil Division at No. GD 06-016521

BEFORE: FORD ELLIOTT, P.J.E., ALLEN AND COLVILLE, [*] JJ.

MEMORANDUM

FORD ELLIOTT, P.J.E.

Robert J. Lewis ("Lewis") and Pietragallo Bosick & Gordon, LLP ("PBG") have filed cross-appeals in this legal malpractice action. We affirm.

The factual background of this case was set forth in part by the trial court in its opinion, filed January 27, 2009, as follows:
The matter before [the trial court] was a legal malpractice action filed by writ on July 14, 2006. [Appellant] had sought the advice of [PBG] for purposes of preparing a "cohabitation agreement" with his paramour, Jill Neely. It appears that [Appellant] and Ms. Neely had a relationship from which a son had been born. Ms. Neely was living in New Mexico in August of 1995. [Appellant] wanted her to relocate to Pittsburgh and take up residence with him and their son. [Appellant] ultimately decided that he did not wish to marry Ms. Neely, nor did he wish to be considered married as of the common law. [Appellant] was seeking to avoid the financial obligations of marriage while achieving the social benefits of a cohabitation arrangement, including living as a nuclear family and having a relationship with his son. [Appellant] thus sought to have [PBG] draft a cohabitation agreement and a custody agreement.
Several drafts of both agreements were circulated to [Appellant] and Ms. Neely, who was unrepresented at the time. Ms. Neely apparently requested various changes in the terms and conditions of both of these agreements.
A point in controversy between [Appellant] and Neely involved a payment to Neely in the event of a termination of their cohabitation. [Appellant] wanted to provide a one-time lump-sum payment to Neely, and Neely wanted an annual payment [(until the death of either Neely or Appellant)] measured by the number of 12-month periods that she and [Appellant] lived together.
[PBG] provided a draft to Neely in September of 1995. This draft provided for a one-time lump-sum payment to her. Neely advised [Appellant] that she wished to change that provision to provide for annual payments. By letter dated September 21, 1995, [PBG] advised Neely of [Appellant's] objection to an annual payment. Neely later advised an attorney with [PBG] that [Appellant] had changed his mind and had agreed to the annual payment measured by the number of 12-month periods of cohabitation. This advisement was made by letter dated October 13, 1995.
[PBG] subsequently sent [Appellant] a handwritten letter which enclosed a draft of the cohabitation agreement with alternative pages for either the annual payment [arrangement] or the one-time lump-sum payment [arrangement]. [Appellant] apparently signed this document and sent it to Ms. Neely for her signature. Neely signed this agreement on October 7, 1995. Neely then sent the version that she signed to [Appellant]. [Appellant] in turn signed this agreement on December 12, 1995. The agreement that Neely signed and returned to [Appellant] contained the version providing for multiple annual payments. [Appellant] signed this same document, apparently without consulting with any attorneys from [PBG].
Toward the end of 2003, [Appellant] and Neely terminated their cohabitation. On October 21, 2003, Neely made claims in [the trial court] under the cohabitation agreement, including a claim that the agreement provided for her to receive multiple payments throughout [Appellant's] life. Neely's claim was made known to [Appellant] at least as of the time of the filing and service of her petition on October 21, 2003[, ] and the presentation of that petition in [the trial court] on November 17, 2003.
The dispute over the cohabitation agreement was ultimately moved to arbitration. A board of arbitrators hearing this dispute ruled in favor of Ms. Neely, and awarded her annual payments measured by the number of 12-month periods of cohabitation, which the arbitrators determined to be 3. As noted, [Appellant] ...

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