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Procedural Posture

Procedural Posture

In a case involving a law firm that dissolved prior to the settlement of a number of inverse condemnation cases handled by the firm, the Superior Court of San Francisco County (California) entered judgment in favor of plaintiff surviving former partner on his claim against defendant, the administrator of the estate of his deceased former partner, for breach of the firm’s dissolution agreement. The administrator appealed.

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Overview

The dissolution agreement provided that the inverse condemnation cases were assigned to the deceased partner and specified the percentages each former partner of the firm would receive from the attorney fees recovered in the cases. The cases settled three years after the deceased partner died, resulting in a substantial total fee recovery. The estate administrator paid the surviving partner nothing from the fee recovery. The court held that Code Civ. Proc., § 366.2, did not apply to the surviving partner’s breach of contract claim because the estate administrator, not the deceased partner, breached the contract. The surviving partner did not have a cause of action on a debt when the deceased partner died, because the deceased partner’s obligation to the surviving partner was contingent upon the inverse condemnation cases resulting in a settlement or a victory for the plaintiffs. Neither event had occurred at the time of the deceased partner’s death. Under the plain meaning of Prob. Code, § 11423, subd. (b), the trial court correctly ordered interest at the rate of 10 percent from the time that the breach of the dissolution agreement occurred.

Outcome

The court affirmed the judgment.

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