BEAUFORT — Award-winning actor Tom Berenger is suing a Beaufort lawyer he says cost him more than $100,000 after advising him to sign a prenuptial agreement without reading the document.
Berenger filed a legal-malpractice lawsuit last month in the Beaufort County Court of Common Pleas against Dean Bell. Berenger hired Bell to represent him in 2005 when an attorney for Berenger's third wife, Patricia Alvaran, proposed an amendment to the couple's prenuptial agreement, according to the suit filed by attorney Thomas Pendarvis of Beaufort.
Berenger, best known for his roles in films such as “Platoon,” “The Big Chill” and “Major League,” married Alvaran in Beaufort in January 1998, according to court records. The couple divorced in June 2011.
The lawsuit alleges Bell came to Berenger's home one evening while the actor was “socializing with friends” and “advised (him) to sign the proposed amendment — without making or suggesting any changes — representing that it was in Mr. Berenger's best interests.”
Berenger says he did not know the amendment entitled Alvaran to a cut of his past and future earnings and the right to the actor's estate upon his death, all of which Alvaran had waived when the couple drafted their original prenuptial agreement, the lawsuit said.
The premarital agreement had previously capped alimony at $50,000 if the couple divorced, according to the lawsuit.
Berenger said that had Bell “provided (him) with advice any competent lawyer in South Carolina would have … (Berenger) would not have signed the post-martial amendment.”
The actor alleged that Bell's omission has cost him more than $100,000.
Bell has yet to file a response in court but said in a March 2011 deposition that the scope of his representation was “ministerial” and only to “review the agreement for purposes of whether or not it appears to be legally enforceable … (and) to meet with (Berenger), have him review and sign it,” according to court records.
Berenger is seeking actual and punitive damages, according to the suit.