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Trials & Litigation

Ex-client can sue out-of-state law firm, top Ariz. court rules

Agreeing with an earlier decision by a state appeals court, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled Friday that an out-of-state attorney and his firm could be sued by Arizona residents to whom they provided a tax-shelter opinion letter for a $50,000 fee.

In a two-page opinion (PDF), the supreme court essentially adopted the court of appeals’ rationale. It held that facts such as Pullman & Comley’s agreement to represent an Arizona client, marketing material sent by the firm to the client’s agent in Arizona and a phone call made to the agent was sufficient to show “purposeful conduct” sufficient to alert the firm that it could reasonably expect to be sued in Arizona.

“In sum, although the Pullman defendants performed all their legal research and drafted the letter in Connecticut, those legal services were directed to Arizona. These contacts, considered in context and in their totality, constitute conduct purposefully targeting Arizona, sufficient to support exercise of jurisdiction,” the appeals court wrote in an April 25, 2013 opinion.

A trial court had initially found that ex-clients Bill and Sue Beverage lacked personal jurisdiction to sue Pullman & Comley because the Connecticut-based firm and its attorneys aren’t licensed to practice in Arizona.

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