Liam Sherlock, a shareholder with Hutchinson, Cox, recently won a case in the Oregon Court of Appeals, successfully defending the seller of undeveloped rural residential property. The appellate court’s decision resolved issues in the areas of real property law, agency law, attorney-client confidentiality, and attorney’s fees.
In Atkeson v. T&K Lands, LLC, the purchaser had hired a law firm to research issues concerning the property. The buyer alleged that, because his lawyer did not report the results of the research to him, and the parcel’s attributes were not what he expected, he was entitled to rescind the purchase.
Mr. Sherlock defended the sale both at the trial and appellate level, which resulted in the appellate opinion clarifying several areas of the law. According to the Appellate Court, if a purchaser of land or his agent, including his attorney, knows of possible deficiencies in the land, the purchaser cannot rescind the agreement on grounds of mutual mistake or misrepresentation. The court noted that the legal rule imputes an agent’s knowledge to his principal and this protected Mr. Sherlock’s client. The court also determined that the deposition testimony of the lawyer, which stemmed from his personal knowledge of the property, did not fall within the attorney-client or work-product privileges. Thus, the court upheld the trial court’s ruling on summary judgment that Mr. Sherlock correctly inquired into the lawyer’s knowledge and testimony, which became crucial to the outcome of the case. Finally, Mr. Sherlock fought for, and won for his client, a substantial award of attorney’s fees, both in the trial court and on appeal.