A Tobago-based attorney has successfully defended herself in court in a lawsuit brought against her by a former client.
Attorney Samantha Lawson was sued by her former client Eleonore Nollet-Neuhaus, in 2015, for breach of contract, compensation as well as the return of $390,000 which Nollet-Neuhaus said was owed to her.
In an oral ruling given at the end of the trial yesterday, Justice Frank Seepersad dismissed Nollet-Neuhaus’ claim but was critical of the attorney’s drafting of documents and her use of the English language.
Both the lawyer and her former client, a retired teacher and governess, testified in court. In his ruling, the judge advised lawyers to pellucidly outline any legal restrictions when drafting any document for their clients as he found that the agreement for the sale of Nollet-Neuhaus’ property was poorly drafted.
He also said it was disturbing that lawyers appear to have poor use and command of the English language.
“Be as thorough and accurate as humanly possible,” he advised, as he said poorly drafted documents should be avoided as it reflected badly on attorneys.
The attorney was retained to represent Nollet-Neuhaus in her divorce proceedings as well as a land transaction, according to the lawsuit. Nollet-Neuhaus claimed Lawson failed to act in her best interest and had a conflict of interest as she also represented the buyer of Nollet-Neuhaus’ property.
The judge dismissed this, saying Lawson’s representation ended when the divorce proceedings and the land transaction were concluded and pointed out that she advised her former client to seek independent legal representation for the sale of the property as she was representing the buyer.
Nollet-Neuhaus also alleged that Lawson failed to pay her the deposit paid by the buyer of the property.
The purchase was eventually terminated after the buyer fell ill and could not complete the transaction, which included securing a licence as a foreign national to own land in Tobago under the Foreign Investment Act.
Lawson testified that Nollet-Neuhaus’ had already been paid the deposit and that she was not holding it in escrow as claimed. The judge agreed with this. Nollet-Neuhaus had also filed similar proceedings before the Disciplinary Committee of the Law Association.