Personal Jurisdiction Over Lawyer

The Court of Appeals of Maryland has held that an Ohio lawyer who contracted over the telephone and by mail to perform legal services in Ohio for a Maryland resident could not be sued for professional negligence in Maryland.

Here is the summary of opinion as prepared by the Court:

“The Court considered here whether communicating alleg edly negligent legal advice to a Maryland resident via two telephone ca lls and two letters constitute sufficient minimum contacts to support personal jurisdiction by a Maryland court over an Ohio attorney under the Due Process C lause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Petitioner filed suit against Respondent, an attorney admitted to practice in Ohio, in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City alleging professional malpractice stemming from legal representation undertaken, and advice given, by Respondent to Petitioner by written and telephonic correspondence in 1985, 1986, and 1994 regarding the expungement of Petitioner’s Ohio juvenile records and the failure to expunge those records. Relying upon the Maryland longarm statute, ㋔㋔ 6-103(b)(1) and (3) of the Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article of the Maryland Code (1973, 2002 Repl. Vol.), Petitioner argued that Respondent established minimum contacts w ith Maryland to justify asserting p ersonal jurisd iction over him because harm caused by the alleged malpractice was experienced by Petitioner in Maryland.

Focusing on Resp ondent’s contacts with Maryland, rather than relying on the site of the “effect of the injury” analysis, the Court concluded that Respondent did not establish purposefully minimum contacts in Maryland. Respondent contacted Petitioner twice by replying to letters sent by Petitioner, the content of which strictly concerned Ohio law and events occurring in Ohio. The attorney-client relationship had been created in Ohio in 1981. Respondent did not solicit business o r advertise his professional services in Maryland. He maintained no office or agents in M aryland and made no trips to Maryland related to this action. He derived no additional income from the alleged provision of legal advice by telephone and letter in 1985, 1986, and 1994 . The Court held that to exercise personal jurisdiction over Respondent, under such circumstances, would violate the Due Process Clause.”

The case is Bond v. Messerman, No. 48, (Maryland Ct. App. April 7, 2006). Read the opinion here.