Thorsen v. Richmond SPCA, 292 Va. 257, 786S.E.2d 453

June 2, 2016

Record No: 150528

(As published by the Virginia Supreme Court)
In an action for professional negligence/breach of contract brought by a party asserting it is a third-party beneficiary of the contractual relation between a testator and her counsel, seeking damages attributable to real property that – due to a drafting error – the will erroneously failed to cause to come to the plaintiff, the trial court did not err in entering judgment for the plaintiff. While difficult to establish, the specific agreement between a testator client and an attorney concerning the drafting of a will could identify an intended third-party beneficiary. Here, the facts sufficiently allege that the contract was entered into for the benefit of the testator’s mother and the plaintiff non-profit entity. When counsel accepted it, plaintiff became the intended beneficiary of the testator’s contract of employment with counsel. Plaintiff’s pleading was thus sufficient to allege a cause of action for breach of contract/professional negligence on behalf of an intended third-party beneficiary of the contract between the testator and her attorney, and the plaintiff’s status as a contingent, residuary legatee does not preclude its claim. Nor is the statute of limitations a bar here, because the plaintiff’s cause of action could not have accrued until the testator’s death, when injury to the plaintiff first occurred. The judgment for plaintiff is affirmed.


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