In Pennsylvania, traditionally, if lawyers or other professionals, such as accountants, performed their professional duties negligently, they could only be held liable to those with whom they were in direct contractual privity—in other words, their clients. Others who may have suffered damage because of that negligence—for example, a party to a transaction relying on the other party’s lawyer’s faulty opinion letter, or a bank relying on an opinion letter prepared by a borrower’s lawyer while extending credit to the borrower—would be without a claim in tort.
In much of the country, however, courts will extend the liability of professionals to cover nonclient third parties injured by the negligence of professionals in certain situations. This liability is typically found under a theory of negligent misrepresentation, adopted from Section 522 of the Restatement (Second) of Torts. Section 522(1) provides: “One who, in the course of his business, profession or employment, or in any other transaction in which he has a pecuniary interest, supplies false information for the guidance of others in their business transactions, is subject to liability for pecuniary loss caused to them by their justifiable reliance upon the information, if he fails to exercise reasonable care or competence in obtaining or communicating the information.”