The former owners of Town Square Tavern first lost their liquor license for submitting false information on an application to renew it and now have lost their case against the lawyer they say led them astray.
The Mattheis Company, owned by brothers Steve and Mike Mattheis, operated the tavern for a decade at the site of what is now Roadhouse Brewing’s downtown pub, until the Town Council revoked the tavern’s liquor license in 2017.
That revocation came after officials discovered the company had incorrectly stated on its license renewal application that it had a lease on the building for the yearlong duration of the license, a requirement under Wyoming law. In reality the lease was set to expire after six months.
Since then the brothers have tried unsuccessfully to have the decision overturned, arguing that it was an innocent mistake and that they submitted the application under the guidance of legal counsel. But both the Teton County District Court and the Wyoming Supreme Court agreed they should have known better after years of filing such applications.
The brothers also filed suit against their attorney, Richard Mulligan of Mulligan Law Office, for legal malpractice. They allege he advised them to submit the unlawful application, breaching his duty to his clients.
But Judge Bill Simpson of the state’s 5th Judicial District Court ruled earlier this month to dismiss the case against Mulligan, saying the previous ruling by the Teton County District Court invalidated the brothers’ claim that they relied on his counsel.
With no local case law to inform his thinking, Judge Timothy Day of that court looked to a case from West Virginia, Powers v. Goodwin. Based on that decision, for that defense to be viable clients must have made a complete disclosure of facts to their attorney and asked for legal advice. Then the attorney must have told them it was legal.
On those points Day found he could not “discern with affirmative evidence the scope of the legal services.”
But the bottom line is that even if the evidence did show Mulligan had advised them it was legal to submit the application as they did, Day decided he could not be sure the Mattheis brothers relied on that advice in good faith, truly believing their actions were legal.
Because of that initial ruling, the 5th Judicial District Court found that the brothers could not raise the issue again, citing the principle of “collateral estoppel,” which essentially prevents relitigation of any issue that a court has previously ruled on.
The Mattheis Company was seeking damages for the loss of its liquor license — which it valued at $300,000 — the loss of “valuable business at the Tavern,” and attorney fees.