Legal Malpractice Case Verdict

An insurance defense firm was hit with a jury verdict in a legal malpractice case last Thursday, February 2. 2006. The lawsuit arose after the now-plaintiff insurer got hit with an adverse verdict in a products liability trial.

The plaintiff in the malpractice action claimed that the underlying case was lost because the defense lawyer “spent woefully few hours preparing, failed to call critical witnesses and muffed chances to attack the plaintiff’s credibility.” More specifically, the evidence alllegedly “showed that [the defense attorney who actually tried the case] spent 20.5 hours preparing for the ladder trial, failed to elicit expert testimony that could have refuted the [original] plaintiff’s experts, failed to take advantage of expert testimony for defendants that got out on summary judgment and failed to exploit evidence that would have shown [the original plaintiff] to be a lying fraud.” In all, 21 errors were claimed.

I have seen some recent evidence of this kind of case as well. I sit on the Standards Committee for the National Board of Trial Advocacy and as part of my work on that committee I have to review lawsuits filed against board-certified lawyers. I just reviewed a big stack of them on Tuesday and can tell you that the type of lawsuits filed against lawyers are different today than they were just five years ago. Historically, the claims involved blown statutes of limitation, other missed deadlines and an occasional failure-to-disclose-conflict case. We now see more and more “strategy-related” claims.

The times they are a changing.