Bail bond concept. Gavel and dollar banknotes.

A Worrying Trend? Legal Malpractice Payouts Soar

Uh oh. Surveyed legal malpractice insurance carriers pointed to sympathetic jurors and aversion to trying cases as possible explanations for an “all-time high” in claims payouts despite similar year-over-year volume. According to data compiled by Ames & Gough, factors such as runaway verdicts and litigation financing have contributed to the rise in settlements. Those factors are among several accounting for a concept most readers are undoubtedly all too familiar with: social inflation, the increase of claims costs beyond the economic inflation so often in the …

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Does the Statute of Limitations Ever Apply in Legal Malpractice?

That’s the question on the minds of many in the legal malpractice community after a noteworthy decision in Pennsylvania.  

It’s probably reasonable to assume — at least from the defense standpoint — that the success rate of a statute of limitations (SOL) defense to a legal malpractice claim is virtually zero. This may be more so in some jurisdictions, especially those that permit a litigant to pursue tort as well as a breach of contract theory in these scenarios.

A dual theory approach may …

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You Dropped the Ball: Now What?

There are so many risk management sources, theories, and tips for the practitioner seeking to avoid a malpractice claim. But, there is less direction available to the professional that does make a mistake and knows about it. What are the obligations to the client, to the carrier, to others once we discover that we’ve dropped the ball? Are there implications on the statute of limitations? The South Dakota Supreme Court addressed these questions in a recent decision.

In the decision, available here, the court …

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Attorney or Scrivener? LPL Claim Dismissed Due to Non-Representation Clause

A recent decision rendered by the New York Appellate Division, First Department, on October 17, 2019, held that the lower court properly dismissed a legal malpractice complaint on the ground that documentary evidence established there was no attorney-client relationship. In Seaman v Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP, 176 A.D.3d 538 (1st Dep’t 2019), the dispute centered on the enforceability of a “non-representation clause” disclaiming the existence of an attorney-client relationship and reaffirmed the importance of providing such clauses where an attorney seeks to limit …

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Missed Deadlines, No Communication Equals Disbarment

Deadlines are a way of life for most professionals, certainly attorneys. The practice of law involves tons of deadlines, many of which are subject to some form of extension, but an attorney must take active steps to either meet each deadline or see to it that the deadline is adjusted. An attorney’s obligation of competency and communication require that counsel meet each deadline and inform her client when something goes wrong. In a recent disciplinary proceeding, an attorney was disbarred for failing to competently …

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Timed Out: Continuous Rep Doctrine Denied in Maine

You generally know the drill: a plaintiff has limited time to file suit. Generally, the statutory period begins when the plaintiff knows or reasonably should know that she has been harmed and that the defendant caused that harm. You also generally know that statute of limitations defenses are not nearly that simple. There are variables including the discovery rule and the gist of the action doctrine which may impact the argument. The continuous representation doctrine is another wrinkle that could affect whether a malpractice claim …

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Fee Dispute ≠ Malpractice

A New Jersey appeals court recently ruled that a disbarred attorney cannot sue his former attorney for malpractice in connection with a fee dispute.  In an unpublished opinion in the case of Schildiner v. Toscano, the Appellate Division upheld a decision from the Essex County Superior Court dismissing the lawsuit filed by the disbarred lawyer (“Lawyer”), against the firm he hired, (“Law Firm”).

As reported by the New Jersey Law Journal (subscription required), the retainer dispute stemmed from Law Firm’s representation of Lawyer, who …

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The Dreaded Settle and Sue: Alive and Well in New Jersey

It is no secret that parties more often settle than proceed through trial. While courts roundly applaud this as beneficial to both the system and litigants, it sometimes generates second guessing from the clients. As Larry David put it, “a good compromise is when both parties are dissatisfied.” It is therefore no surprise that many legal malpractice claims follow from settlements, despite the general principle that the settlement itself precludes such a suit. In a recent decision from the New Jersey Appellate Division, the court’s …

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Gavel on sounding block

Secrets Are No Fun, Especially When It Comes To Malpractice Coverage

The risk of a malpractice claim is real. That’s the bad news. But, now that we have your attention, the good news is that insurance is available to defend and indemnify professionals who face malpractice claims. In order to receive coverage, however, professionals generally must disclose whether they are the subject of any potential claims when completing their applications.  If an insurer discovers that a professional had knowledge of a potential claim, but failed to disclose it, it could rely upon the nondisclosure as a …

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