Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Bilbija v. Lane

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

May 10, 2018

ELIZABETH BILBIJA and ROBERT BILBIJA, Plaintiffs,
v.
CHRISTOPHER T. LANE, Defendant.

          ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          TANYA WALTON PRATT, JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on a Motion for Summary Judgment filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 by Defendant Christopher T. Lane (“Lane”) (Filing No. 44). Plaintiffs Elizabeth and Robert Bilbija (“the Bilbijas”), brought this lawsuit for legal malpractice against Lane, alleging that Lane engaged in a prohibited dual representation of them along with non-party Ryan Thompson (“Thompson”), in documenting a loan from the Bilbijas to Thompson. They further contend that Lane failed to secure the loan through payments to Thompson from a Major League Baseball (“MLB”) pension. Lane, an Indianapolis attorney, seeks summary judgment, asserting that no attorney-client relationship existed with the Bilbijas to support a legal malpractice claim, and there is no cause of action for their conflict of interest claim. For the following reasons, the Court grants in part and denies in part the Motion for Summary Judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The following facts are not necessarily objectively true, but as required by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, the facts are presented in the light most favorable to the Bilbijas as the non- moving parties. See Zerante v. DeLuca, 555 F.3d 582, 584 (7th Cir. 2009); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986).

         Ryan Thompson is a retired major league baseball player. In 2014, the Bilbijas and Thompson met through their sons, as both of their sons played college basketball. Thompson and the Bilbijas are Christians and they became close friends. (Filing No. 49-2 at 10-11.) The Bilbijas considered Thompson part of their family. Id. 11. On June 9, 2014, the Bilbijas executed a promissory note with Thompson and his wife, Charon Thompson, for the amount of $70, 000.00 (Filing No. 49-1 at 2). Lane was not involved in preparing this promissory note (Filing No. 49-2 at 6-7). The Bilbijas loaned $70, 000.00 to the Thompsons to assist them with their financial troubles, and the promissory note memorialized the debt and obligation to repay the debt. Id. at 10-11.

         The following month, in July 2014, Thompson informed the Bilbijas that he had ongoing financial troubles and legal problems and asked them to loan him an additional $42, 500.00 to help him avoid jail for fraud charges. Id. at 11-12. However, Thompson did not inform the Bilbijas that he had already entered a guilty plea on the fraud charge in January 2014. Id. at 18. The Bilbijas told Thompson that the only way they would loan him an additional $42, 500.00 was if an attorney helped with the transaction. Id. at 15.

         Thompson informed the Bilbijas that he could protect the loan with his Major League Baseball pension, from which he received $8, 000.00 per month, and he could repay them $2, 000.00 per month from this pension if they agreed to loan him the additional money (Filing No. 49-2 at 25). He also told them that he would be able to repay them within 120 days of July 23, 2014, because he anticipated obtaining a large contract worth more than $300, 000.00 through a business venture. Id. at 45.

         After talking with Thompson's criminal defense attorney, the Bilbijas decided to loan the additional money to Thompson. Id. at 31. The Bilbijas explained to Thompson that “the only way [they] would ever lend him more money is that [they] needed security, and he agreed to put the money, the $42, 500, on a promissory note drawn up by a lawyer to secure it.” Id. at 20.

         Because they lived in Canada, the Bilbijas asked Thompson to find an attorney for them to assist in the transaction. Id. at 15. An attorney who knew Thompson called Lane in July 2014 and asked if he could provide Lane's telephone number to Thompson. Lane was unfamiliar with Thompson and Lane had never previously represented Thompson. (Filing No. 49-6 at 6, 10.) Thompson did not tell the Bilbijas that Lane would be representing both the Bilbijas and Thompson, but he did tell them that he had “an attorney who can draw up this promissory note for us.” (Filing No. 49-7 at 6.)

         Prior to meeting with the Bilbijas and Thompson, Lane had never prepared a promissory note that was secured by anything, and he had never secured a debt with any type of professional sports pension. His law practice at that time involved criminal defense, family law, credit issues, and small business law (Filing No. 49-6 at 6-9). Lane and Thompson did not execute a written attorney-client fee agreement even though Lane generally used such fee agreements. Id. at 32. On July 23, 2014, Lane met with the Bilbijas and Thompson for approximately two hours at his law office (Filing No. 49-2 at 33-34). The Bilbijas believed that Lane was representing them as well as Thompson in the promissory note transaction. Lane verbally communicated to Mrs. Bilbija that he was representing all of them. Id. at 27-28. If Lane had explained to them that he was representing Thompson only, the Bilbijas would have walked out of his office. Id. at 53. Mrs. Bilbija specifically asked Lane if she and her husband needed their own attorney, and Lane answered, “[N]o, I do this all the time, this is what I specialize in, contract law for athletes. I do garnishments. This is my specialty.” Id. at 52.

         Lane admits that he did not believe the Bilbijas were represented by another attorney, he did not advise the Bilbijas that they should be represented by separate counsel, and he did not specifically advise the Bilbijas that he did not represent them (Filing No. 49-6 at 26). Moreover, Lane did not provide a disclaimer to the Bilbijas to inform them that he was representing Thompson only (Filing No. 49-2 at 22).

         At the time of the meeting on July 23, 2014, Lane informed the parties that his legal fees were $500.00. The Bilbijas paid Lane $250.00 in cash. Mrs. Bilbija told Lane that he could put the $250.00 toward their half of the legal fees. The Bilbijas asked for a receipt for their payment, but Lane did not have a receipt book. Id. at 37. Thompson also paid Lane $250.00. Id. at 40. Lane accepted $500.00 in cash for payment for his legal services. Id. at 37, 53.

         During the meeting, Lane presented a promissory note to Thompson and the Bilbijas. Mrs. Bilbija questioned why the note did not include Mrs. Thompson and she told Lane that the note was not strong enough. She asked Lane to make it stronger. Lane explained that Thompson's wife was not employed. Thompson changed some of the clauses in the note to make it stronger. Id. at 24. The Bilbijas suggested that the loan could be secured with Thompson's house, and Lane responded that Thompson possibly could have multiple mortgages on his house. Id. at 22. Lane brought up the possibility of securing the loan with Thompson's MLB pension (Filing No. 49-7 at 13).[1] Lane also recommended that the $70, 000.00 loan memorialized in the June 9, 2014 promissory note be included in the new promissory note secured by the MLB pension (Filing No. 49-2 at 22, 23, 55). When the Bilbijas asked Lane how the promissory note secured by the MLB pension would work, Lane explained that the Bilbijas would simply send the note to the MLB office, and MLB would start garnishing Thompson's pension. Id. at 51.

         The Bilbijas and Thompson signed the promissory note secured by the MLB pension at the time of their joint meeting at Lane's law office (Filing No. 49-6 at 17-18). After they signed the note, Lane “signed off on all [their] names” as a witness (Filing No. 49-2 at 27). “[H]e signed it off, verbally, that he represented all of [them].” Id. The Bilbijas and Thompson signed a second promissory note during the meeting, which provided an additional repayment option involving Thompson's other business venture (Filing No. 49-4 at 2-3). Lane notarized this promissory note, but he did not prepare the document (Id.; Filing No. 49-2 at 41).

         After the promissory note secured by the MLB pension was executed, the Bilbijas loaned the additional money to Thompson by wiring the money to his criminal defense attorney. Thompson failed to pay back the money that he owed the Bilbijas. Mrs. Thompson informed the Bilbijas in August 2014 that their financial situation was very bad, and they might file for bankruptcy. The Bilbijas later learned that Thompson filed for bankruptcy. The Bilbijas contacted the MLB pension authorities to receive payment under the promissory note secured by the MLB pension, and they learned that Thompson's pension was subject to execution only for child support or similar debts and a judgment would be necessary (Filing No. 49-2 at 26, 31-32, 44-45, 48, 51).

         In response to these developments, the Bilbijas filed this lawsuit against Lane, asserting claims for legal malpractice and conflict of interest (Filing No. 1-2 at 7-18). After filing his Answer denying liability, Lane moved for summary judgment on the claims.

         II. SUMMARY ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.