The Texas Court of Appeals has recently dismissed a legal malpractice claim against a Florida attorney for lack of jurisdiction. In Rolnick v. Sight’s My Line, Inc., the owner of a Florida corporation filed a legal malpractice claim against several Texas law firms, alleging that they had failed to properly perfect a security interest on behalf of the corporation.
The owner sought legal assistance selling corporate assets located in Texas. A Florida attorney had recommended retaining Texas counsel, and contacted a Texas law firm, exchanging emails and phone calls. The Texas firm was retained and then hired another Texas law firm to assist them. The owner later sued both Texas firms and the Florida attorney. The Florida attorney requested a special appearance, which the Trial Court denied, resulting in an interlocutory appeal of that denial.
The Texas Court of Appeals reversed, dismissing the malpractice claim, and ruling that there was no personal jurisdiction over the Florida attorney. The Court found that the determination of jurisdiction in a legal malpractice action centers on where the Defendant attorney performed the legal work at issue. In this case, although the Florida attorney may have communicated his impressions to the attorneys in Texas, he had formed his opinions in Florida. The Court found that the emails and phone calls made to the Texas law firms did not create minimum contacts to establish personal jurisdiction in Texas.