Settlement Doesn’t Bar Malpractice Claim

Rudolf fired his lawyers after a jury trial that resulted in a 50% finding of comparative fault and a total verdict of $250,000.  He then hired a new lawyer, got a new trial, and then settled his case for $750,000. 

Next, he sued his original lawyers for malpractice, saying that he failed to submit an appropriate jury instruction in the first trial and failed to object to the charge as given.  "In his damages claim, plaintiff sought payment of the legal fees associated with the motion to set aside the verdict and the appeal, as well as the expert witness fees and expenses incurred for the second trial. Plaintiff also requested approximately $190,000 in interest that would have accrued at nine percent per annum on the $750,000 had that sum been awarded at the conclusion of the first trial in January 2002."

The Defendants admitted negligence, but denied that Plaintiffs were damaged by it.  The New York court disagreed, saying that "plaintiff incurred litigation expenses to correct defendants’ error and paid a second time for expert fees for the retrial. These expenditures were readily ascertainable and calculated at $28,703.27 by Supreme Court. Although plaintiff achieved a $750,000 settlement as a result of the second trial, that sum represented compensatory damages in the underlying personal injury action and was not designed to reimburse plaintiff for the fees and expenses caused by
defendants’ negligence. We therefore agree with Supreme Court that plaintiff is entitled to consequential damages of $28,703.27."

The court rejected the claim for interest.

The case is Rudolf v. Shayne Dachs et al,   N.Y. Ct. App. No 52 ( May 2007)    Read it here.