Mitchelson Set Back in Malpractice Suit

From a Times Staff Writer

Marvin M. Mitchelson, the Los Angeles "palimony" lawyer, has lost a round in a malpractice suit brought against him by Genevieve Gillaizeau, a former client, who claimed that Mitchelson botched her forgery challenge to Darryl F. Zanuck's will by allowing the statute of limitations to run out before filing papers in court.

Zanuck, co-founder of 20th Century Fox, died in Palm Springs at the age of 77 in December, 1980.

In her malpractice suit, Gillaizeau charged that Mitchelson failed to object to a 1977 codicil to Zanuck's will, but that the lawyer's challenge to the will on grounds of forgery was filed one day after the statute of limitations had expired.

"Missing the statute of limitations is a classic example of negligence which any person can understand," Federal Judge John F. Keenan ruled in a decision issued Wednesday.

Keenan ruled that Mitchelson "breached his duty" in failing to meet the deadline.

After learning that her lawyer had missed the statute of limitations, Gillaizeau fired Mitchelson and sued him in federal court in New York City. In her case, Gillaizeau, a former model, claimed that she and Zanuck had lived together from 1965 to 1973 as "man and wife" and that she was named as a "substantial beneficiary" in several of Zanuck's wills.

Still to be decided at a trial is the question of whether Gillaizeau would have succeeded in the will fight had Mitchelson represented her differently.

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