Monday, April 8, 2013
Lawyer Not Liable Based on Name Appearing on Letterhead—C.A.
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Seeming Affiliation With Alleged Tortfeasor Did Not Create Ostensible Partnership, Kitching Writes
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A lawyer who permitted his name to be used on the letterhead of another lawyer is not liable for that other lawyer’s alleged misdeeds, the Court of Appeal for this district has ruled.
The decision, handed down Wednesday by Div. Three, affirms Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Alan S. Rosenfield’s grant of summary judgment to attorney F. Bari Nejadpour and Nejadpour & Associates, sued based on the alleged fraud and malpractice of attorney Benjamin Donel.
Justice Patti Kitching wrote the opinion, which was not certified for publication.
The plaintiff, Gerald Cravea, insisted that Nejadpour was an employee or partner of Donel—and if not, was an ostensible partner.
In some of the correspondence from Donel to Cravea, “Nejadpour & Associates” and another law firm were listed as “ASSOCIATED COUNSELS”—or, in one instance, as “OFFSIDE COUNSELS.”
On his own letterhead, Nejadpour included Donel’s name, he listed his “Beverly Hills Office” as 280 S. Beverly Drive, No. 209—Donel’s address—and he included Donel on his website. However, Kitching noted, there was no evidence Cravea saw Nejadpour’s letterhead and he acknowledged he never visited the website.
The jurist said the facts showed that Donel and Nejadpour were not, in fact, partners or associates. As to ostensible partnerships, she said:
“Significantly, Donel’s letterhead never referred to Nejadpour or his firm as a “partner.” It is also worth noting that “Nejadpour & Associates,” and not F. Bari Nejadpour, was listed as an associated counsel. Generally individuals and not law firms are “partners” with each other. Moreover, Donel’s letterhead must be placed in the context of the four retainer agreements plaintiff signed and the bills Donel sent plaintiff for services rendered. None of the retainer agreements or bills mentioned or referred to Nejadpour or his firm in any way. We hold that under these circumstances, the representations on Donel’s letterhead concerning Nejadpour & Associates were not, as a matter of law, sufficient to establish an ostensible partnership.”
Cravea was represented by Redondo Beach attorney Thomas P. Carter. Venice practitioner Matthew S. Grayson of L.A. Law Group acted for Nejadpour.
Cravea’s action against Donel was settled for an unspecified amount, and dismissed last August.
Although Div. Three’s opinion exonerates Nejadpour of wrongdoing toward Cravea, unethical conduct on his part has been found by the State Bar with respect to other clients. In 2010, he was placed on actual suspension for six months, and he is presently under a two-year actual suspension imposed Dec. 19.
Copyright 2013, Metropolitan News Company