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Behroozi v. Kirshenbaum

Supreme Court of Rhode Island

January 12, 2016

Artecia Behroozi
v.
Allen Kirshenbaum

(PC12-1947).

Artecia Behroozi, Plaintiff, Pro se.

For Defendant: Kristina I. Hultman, Esq., Peter E. Garvey, Esq.

Present: Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and Indeglia, JJ.

OPINION

Page 870

Gilbert V. Indeglia, Justice.

The plaintiff, Artecia Behroozi (plaintiff or Behroozi), a pro se litigant, appeals from the Superior Court's entry of summary judgment in favor of the defendant, attorney Allen Kirshenbaum (defendant or Kirshenbaum), on various claims related to his representation of her in Family Court. This matter came before the Supreme

Page 871

Court on December 10, 2015, pursuant to an order directing the parties to appear and show cause why the issues raised should not be summarily decided. After hearing the arguments of counsel and reviewing the memoranda submitted on behalf of the parties, we are satisfied that cause has not been shown. Accordingly, we shall decide the matter at this time without further briefing or argument. For the reasons set forth herein, we affirm the judgment of the Superior Court.

I

Facts and Travel

Beginning in November 2007, Kirshenbaum represented Behroozi in post-final judgment divorce proceedings to recover arrearages in alimony payments owed to Behroozi by her ex-husband.[1] In June 2009, Kirshenbaum withdrew as counsel with the Family Court's approval.[2] On April 13, 2012, Behroozi filed a complaint in Providence County Superior Court against Kirshenbaum, which she later amended, setting forth claims for legal malpractice, negligence, fraud, and breach of fiduciary duty.

After much back and forth between the parties and copious orders in the trial court,[3] on May 15, 2014, Kirshenbaum filed a motion for summary judgment as to Behroozi's claims. He argued that, based on Behroozi's representation to the court that she did not intend to engage an expert witness to testify with regard to her malpractice claims, she was unable as a matter of law to establish the applicable standard of care and a breach thereof, as is required to support a legal malpractice claim. He further argued that Behroozi's malpractice claims were barred by the three-year statute of limitations. Kirshenbaum also argued that Behroozi's fraud and misrepresentation claims must fail because the allegedly fraudulent statements were made to the Family Court and not to Behroozi herself.

On June 16, 2014, the hearing justice heard the parties on Kirshenbaum's motion for summary judgment. As to Behroozi's malpractice claims, the hearing justice noted that this Court has required the need for a legal expert to establish the standard of care applicable to a lawyer and a breach of that standard. Given that Behroozi indicated that she had no intention of calling an expert witness, the hearing justice granted Kirshenbaum's motion for summary judgment pertaining to Behroozi's claims for malpractice and breach of fiduciary duty. Even further, the hearing justice went on to find that these claims were also barred by the statute of limitations, and that Behroozi had not demonstrated that the discovery rule should toll the limitations period because she was aware of and even complained about Kirshenbaum's alleged wrongdoings during the course of his representation. The hearing ...


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