Breach of Contract or Negligence: Does it Really Matter?

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court is set to entertain argument on an important appellate issue regarding the types of damages available to a plaintiff in a legal malpractice dispute.  The decision may also highlight the fundamental differences, if any, between a malpractice suit grounded in tort or contract. In 2006, a national law firm agreed to represent the plaintiffs in the sale of a company that had incurred over $2 million in unpaid taxes.  According to the plaintiffs, the law firm advised them that the …

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Collection Proceedings against Clients Often = Malpractice

Ever hear the cruel joke about a thankless client who achieves a wonderful settlement through her attorney’s legal prowess only to terminate the lawyer before the settlement ink is dry? Well, for some unfortunate attorneys it’s a reality. Attorneys in this pickle face the unenviable decision of whether to initiate a collection action against the former client to collect on unpaid legal bills or to sue under a quantum meruit theory. Reportedly, however, fee disputes are at the heart of a significant percentage of …

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OJ Simpson’s Bid for Freedom: It’s My Lawyer’s Fault

OJ Simpson’s fall from fame is well documented. The disgraced football running back’s latest legal woes stem from an altercation in a hotel room in which the Juice was allegedly joined by armed men. That story ended with his incarceration. Now, OJ is back in a Las Vegas courtroom with a new team of attorneys and a novel argument: Simpson’s former attorney is to blame for the 2008 conviction.  In the latest chapter in OJ’s lengthy legal history, the “Juice” claims that poor legal …

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Attorney Sued for Wrongful Death

One of the foundations of the attorney-client relationship is confidentiality.  Apart from limited exceptions, attorneys are generally precluded from disclosing a client’s confidential information to a third-party and must act at all times in the client’s best interest. It is well established that failure to do so may constitute an ethical violation and perhaps professional misconduct.   A recent $40 million lawsuit claims that an attorney’s breach of his client’s confidences led to the client’s murder. Uh oh.

A wrongful death suit filed last week by …

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Ignoring Prejudgment Interest = A Costly Mistake

Prejudgment interest awards are often overlooked in evaluating a claim, especially legal malpractice matters.  Typically, when valuing exposure, the focus centers upon the underlying action had the attorney avoided alleged negligence.  But overlooking the impact of prejudgment interest can prove to be a costly mistake. Depending upon the statutory interest rate in your jurisdiction and the potential amount of the award, prejudgment interest can transform a nuisance value malpractice case into a hefty judgment.

Consider Corsiatto v. Maddalone, March, 2013 N.Y.Slip. Op. 30553, (Sup. …

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Real Estate Transactions Pose the Greatest Risk of Attorney Malpractice

According to a recent study, real estate transactions pose the most risk to attorneys of a malpractice claim.  In its annual survey, the American Bar Association reported a higher percentage of professional liability claims stemming from real estate dealings than any other area.  Over the past several years, plaintiff personal injury claims topped the list, but to the joy of the plaintiff’s bar and the chagrin of real estate professionals, that trend is apparently changing.

The top three types of activity leading to the majority …

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Rutgers: Don’t Look at Me…My Lawyer Made Me Do It

As is so often the case, with mounting pressure and criticism comes finger-pointing. In the midst of a well-publicized scandal, Rutgers University is now suggesting that poor advice from its outside counsel led to a series of infamous decisions regarding its former basketball coach.  According to reports, as Rutgers’ athletic director Tim Pernetti resigned Friday amid the scandal over men’s basketball coach Mike Rice’s unorthodox practices, he blamed the school administration for following a “process” that allowed Rice to stay on-board. With its back …

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When Professional Misconduct = Unfair Trade Practices

The California Court of Appeals recently concluded that an attorney’s professional malpractice and ethical violations may give rise to liability for unfair trade practices.  In the underlying dispute, attorney Martin Guajardo, the sole shareholder in his own law firm, sold his practice because he faced disciplinary action brought by the state bar.  Although Attorney Guajardo ultimately resigned from the bar, he continued to practice law following the sale of his firm.  The People of the State of California filed a complaint against Guajardo, …

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My Lips Are Sealed: No Liability For Attorney’s Non-Disclosure to Non-Clients

Let’s start with the basic principle: an attorney’s duty runs exclusively to the client apart from limited circumstances of fraud when an attorney may be liable to the client’s adversary. The question remains whether an attorney’s decision to keep her mouth shut – i.e. not to disclose key information to the other side – constitutes actionable fraud.  According to a recent decision by the Texas Appeals Court, the fact that an attorney did not disclose information to her adversary does not constitute actionable misconduct.

In …

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Attorney Sanctioned for Frivolous Claim

You are what you eat – but for lawyers, you are what you sign, file, verify or plead.  An attorney in Pittsburgh just learned this lesson the hard way and is now $20,000 lighter in the wallet.  The failure to properly investigate his client’s “frivolous” gun malfunction claim has landed Attorney Jason Schiffman with the hefty sanction after the judge disagreed with the attorney’s plea that he had reasonably relied on his client.

In Ellis v. Beemiller, Plaintiff Regis Ellis alleged that …

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