Monday, December 28, 2009

Regrets The Morning After Settlement: Connecticut Legal Malpractice

The most common call we receive for a Connecticut legal malpractice case is not dissatisfaction with the result after a trial. Rather, having agreed to a settlement the client now has second thoughts and wishes they had never listened to their lawyer’s recommendation. This often results in the client wanting to bring a legal malpractice action against their attorney.

In such cases, the clients will assert that they could have received a more favorable result, despite the fact that they knowingly and willingly agreed to end the case. In Connecticut, like the majority of states, a client is permitted to sue their lawyer under the theory that their attorney negligently negotiated an agreement despite the fact that the client consented to settlement.

Procedurally, lawyers owe their clients a duty to communicate, a duty not to exceed the client’s given authority, a duty to be diligent, a duty to reveal conflicts of interest, and a duty not to compromise a client’s interests in an effort to cover up the lawyer’s error. Substantively, during settlement and negotiation, lawyers are required to provide their clients with appropriate and accurate information so that they may make an informed decision. This includes a thorough explanation of the law and how it should affect the client’s decision so that the client is able to make an informed decision. Connecticut lawyers that fail to appropriately exercise these procedural and substantive duties may be liable for Connecticut legal malpractice and we can help.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Inadequate Performance of Legal Research May Result in Connecticut Legal Malpractice

Connecticut lawyers have an ethical obligation, to perform sufficient research to effectively advocate on behalf of their clients. In fulfilling this duty of competent research, lawyers are expected to exercise ordinary care under the circumstances. The most important consideration is that the attorney has conducted sufficient research to make an informed decision on behalf of their client.

In this age of increasingly available information, lawyers may find themselves the subject of legal malpractice actions as a result of inadequate legal research. Research is an essential part of any type of law practice and every lawyer should possess the fundamental skills of locating relevant legal authority and evaluating it.

Given the low cost of today’s digital publishing databases (sometimes even free i.e., combined with the ease of distribution over the internet, competent legal research is easily accessible with a few keystrokes. Inadequate legal research by Connecticut lawyers should not be happening. A failure to adequately perform legal research by a Connecticut lawyer may be legal malpractice – and we can help.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

As we roll into the holiday season, we at Stanger & Arnold would like to wish everyone out there a very happy and safe thanksgiving day.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Common Legal Malpractice Issues in Connecticut

Connecticut attorneys are licensed and sworn to provide fair and honest legal services. They have a fiduciary duty to represent their client’s best interests. When lawyers in Connecticut breach their fiduciary duties, they may be liable for legal malpractice. When Connecticut lawyers commit legal malpractice, we can help.

In Connecticut, legal malpractice encompasses many types of negligent and unethical behaviors by lawyers. Legal malpractice can rise when an attorney:

-Lets a statute of limitation or deadline pass
-Puts his or her interests before the client’s
-Has a conflict of interest
-Fails to properly investigate and perform discovery
-Makes errors during the course of trial
-Improperly settles a case without a client’s authorization
-Improperly drafts important legal documents
-Negligently conducts property title searches

These attorney errors can have serious financial, legal and emotional consequences to clients. These errors are often a result of lawyers being overworked or understaffed – but that is no excuse. When lawyers screw up like this, they may be liable for Connecticut legal malpractice, and we can help.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Attorney Trial Errors Can Lead to Connecticut Legal Malpractice

Sometimes lawyers drop the ball during trials and commit errors that end up costing their clients money. This can lead to a legal malpractice claim for the client in Connecticut.

Common errors include failing to put forward all of the necessary evidence to prove their case. Deadlines for witnesses and expert disclosures can come and pass, and a client’s trial can move forward without valuable evidence. These trial errors often occur due to inadequate preparation by Connecticut lawyers.

Many Connecticut lawyers commit legal trial errors by failing to make proper objections during trial, or failing to keep evidence out before or during trial. Sometimes irrelevant evidence that should not be admitted gets into trial evidence because of a lawyer’s inattention.

These and other trial errors can make a big difference in a client’s future and are just a few examples of trial errors that could result in Connecticut legal malpractice – but we can help.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Title Searches: Fertile Ground for Legal Malpractice in Connecticut

Before issuing a title insurance policy, insurance companies rely on the knowledge and expertise of lawyers to handle title searches. In turn, real estate developers trust attorneys to address Connecticut title related issues. When Connecticut real estate lawyers screw this up, the costs to clients can be through the roof - but we can help.

Before signing off on a title search, lawyers should properly inform their clients of the condition of the title to the real property. If the title is not properly cleared and someone else makes some claim on that property, the client may be faced with costly litigation, or worse a significant devaluation of the property. Improper title searches may result in a client not being aware of easements on their property. Easements and covenants can restrict the owner’s ability to use the land. When these are not known before a real estate transaction is closed, the result is that a client may now own property that is unusable for its intended purpose. These are screw ups that lawyers should never allow to happen – but we can help.

Zoning changes are another key area where real estate lawyers mess up. Real estate is only as valuable as its available uses. When Connecticut lawyers fail to properly address land use issues such as zoning before the real estate transaction is closed, the client may be left with a property they cannot use.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Real Estate Related Legal Malpractice May Be On The Rise

Times have changed. A few years ago, when the real estate market was rising, an attorney’s errors and omissions when handling real estate transactions were often overlooked. If a piece of property proved unsuitable for its intended use after a transaction was completed, the property was often sold at a profit with minimal harm to the client.

However, with the recent downturn in the real estate market, once inconsequential mistakes have become serious liabilities. Real estate related legal malpractice in Connecticut may develop as a result of many different types of errors including, zoning issues, title issues, title insurance issues and contract errors. With the value of property falling rapidly, property owners cannot afford to be seriously harmed by lawyer screw ups surrounding their real estate transaction. These errors are easily avoidable but when they do happen – we can help.

Misrepresenting Potential Damage Awards May Lead to Legal Malpractice in Connecticut

Honest communication between Connecticut lawyers and clients is very important. It is perhaps most important when discussing settlement. When discussing settlement with the opposing side, lawyers cannot keep their clients in the dark.

Cases of legal malpractice in Connecticut often arise out of a lawyer’s failure to keep clients informed of settlement offers from insurance companies in personal injury cases. Often, insurance companies have policy settlement limits that the lawyer is aware of, but the client is not. Seeking to make a quick buck, sometimes lawyers will not even file the law suit at all but will urge the client to settle for the policy settlement limit without informing the client that it is the settlement limit. Lawyers are under an ethical duty to keep their clients reasonably informed when asking them to make settlement decisions. If issues like these arise while your Connecticut attorney is representing you; we can help.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Laywers Who Fail To Reveal A Conflict Of Interest May Face A Legal Malpractice Action In Connecticut

During litigation in Connecticut, lawyers must be mindful of their ethical obligation to put a client’s interests above all others. The Connecticut Rules of Professional Conduct do not allow an attorney to represent a person against a former client in the same case, or in a related matter, or to argue information connected to an earlier representation to the disadvantage of a former client.

For example, if an attorney has a business or personal relationship that causes a client to suspect that their confidential information was disclosed to another to the detriment of the client, the lawyer has created a conflict of interest. If the conflict of interest works to the disadvantage of the client, the Connecticut lawyer might be liable for legal malpractice in Connecticut. Located in West Hartford, CT, we can help with Connecticut legal malpractice issues, like conflicts of interest, all over the state.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Dropping a Client Requires Unambigous Communication

Sometimes Connecticut lawyers leave the law firm they are working for to go work for another one. Often they take cases they have been working on at the old firm with them to the new firm. In some instances the new firm may not want the client’s case. When this happens, it is the duty of the Connecticut lawyer to unambiguously communicate to the client that they are withdrawing from the case. Failure to do so might jeopardize the client’s legal rights but we can help.

For example, if a Connecticut lawyer fails to unambiguously communicate to her client that they are withdrawing from the case, and the client ends up missing a deadline to file a law suit, the lawyer may have committed legal malpractice for missing a Connecticut statute of limitation.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Breach of Fiduciary Duty is Legal Malpractice in Connecticut

With regard to Connecticut legal malpractice, a breach of fiduciary duty occurs when an attorney puts someone else’s interests above their client’s interests in a legal matter. It also occurs when Connecticut attorneys are more interested in recruiting clients than serving the ones they currently have.

Often, an attorney will commit legal malpractice in Connecticut by suing the wrong party, missing a deadline, or not properly investigating the claim. The lawyer may then realize the mistake, but fail to inform the client. Or worse, the lawyer may attempt to convince their client to settle his or her claim for a minimal recovery without fully disclosing the attorney’s mistakes leaving the client with no legal recourse. It’s unfortunate when this happens but we can help.

A lawyer may breach his or her fiduciary duty to a client in Connecticut by doing one or more of the following: setting aside cases that appear to be minor, asking a client to accept a minimal settlement when the facts indicate the client may have a bigger claim, failing to offer appropriate advice, missing a filing deadline, filing an improper document, or ignoring a conflict of interest. Anyone of these acts may lead to a legal malpractice suit in Connecticut and we can help. Lawyers screw up, but they should never represent their own interests above their clients'.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Does Your Lawyer Have Connecticut Legal Malpractice Insurance?

Lawyers do behave badly - they screw up, they make mistakes and they are negligent. They may not always do it on purpose, yet it causes damage; but we can help. Lawyers also are sued for legal malpractice and it is important for clients to be sure their Connecticut lawyer has Connecticut legal malpractice insurance. If they don’t, it may be that the insurance company knows something that you don't know. The insurance company may be refusing to give them insurance. Or maybe the lawyer does not want to obtain it (or doesn't have the money to spend on it). Do you really want to use an attorney who does not have insurance to protect you? Article: Beware Your Attorney May Be Bare

Friday, July 31, 2009

What is Connecticut Legal Malpractice?

Not everyone is clear as to what constitutes legal malpractice in Connecticut, but we can help. In Connecticut, legal malpractice has been defined as the failure to “exercise that degree of skill and learning commonly applied under all the circumstances in the community by the average prudent reputable member of the profession...result[ing in] injury, loss, or damage to the [client]” Davis v. Margolis, 215 Conn. 408, 415, 576 A.2d 489 (1990).

Some of the complaints that may lead to a legal malpractice lawsuit in Connecticut include: mishandling client funds, incompetence or inexperience, missing a statute of limitation, missing another important court deadline that has a negative impact on the case, failing to properly advise a client about their options, failing to properly gather the proper evidence needed to present a comprehensive case, failing to prosecute a case and having it dismissed and conflicts of interest between lawyer and client that go unaddressed.

All of the above are examples of a lawyer acting negligently in failing to exercise the “degree of skill and learning commonly applied” by the “average prudent reputable” lawyer. Id. If the client can prove damages as a result of this negligence they may have grounds for pursuing a Connecticut legal malpractice law suit.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Badly Drafted Documents: Two Deleted Paragraphs Cost Law Firm $150 Million

Poorly drafted documents by a Connecticut attorney can sometimes be the source of significant liability for clients. We can help with issues associated with the improper handling of important legal documents. Poorly drafted language may provide insufficient compensation for a breach of contract. Additionally, if contractual language is not carefully selected it may unintentionally provide a contract party with a way to void the entire contract. Badly drafted documents by Connecticut lawyers can end up costing clients a lot of money.

For example, recently a law firm was representing a company looking to enter the national cable market. The law firm was charged with the duty of drafting and reviewing the contracts for the transaction. An associate of the law firm accidentally deleted two paragraphs from the transaction document which ended up costing the company millions of dollars. The company sued the law firm for legal malpractice and the firm settled the lawsuit for $150 million. The National Law Journal reports the entire story here.

That’s 150 million reasons for lawyers to make sure they are properly drafting their client’s important documents. If you need help with drafting important transactional documents or if your Connecticut lawyer’s badly drafted documents have cost you money, we can help.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Failing to Properly Investigate & Perform Discovery: Value of Eric Clapton Guitar Leads to Legal Malpractice Suit

When lawyers fail to properly investigate or perform discovery on a matter the consequences can be devastating to a client’s legal and financial position. Legal malpractice in divorce cases is not uncommon. This can happen when a lawyer ignores or overlooks a witness who has knowledge that might have helped the client’s case. Another example is a situation where your attorney fails to follow up on discovery information obtained from opposing counsel during a substantial divorce case.

For example, one New York court recently denied a motion to dismiss by an attorney being sued for insufficiently investigating a husband’s assets. The plaintiff-wife believed that the attorney’s failure to retain a forensic accountant and his subsequent acquiescence to the husband’s valuations of the assets caused her to be short-changed in the equitable distribution of marital assets. Included in the assets the wife alleged she was short-changed on, was a very valuable Eric Clapton guitar that may have been undervalued to the extent of $300,000; a very costly error by the attorney. These attorney mistakes occur all the time and we can help if it has happened to you. When Connecticut lawyers fail to properly investigate or perform discovery on cases our legal malpractice attorneys can help.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Improper Settlement May Cost You

Times have changed and improper settlement is a prime example of the kind of legal malpractice that we can help you with. Lawyers have an obligation to inform their clients of all opportunities to settle a matter. Often, lawyers will refrain from informing a client of settlement opportunities because it may not be in the attorney’s best interest. Reasons for this may be that the lawyer has invested a great deal of time in the case and now fears that she would not be adequately compensated from a minimal settlement. This ends up in a client being uninformed and leads to a case being forced forward.

This is impermissible attorney misconduct. Attorney’s have a duty to put their clients’ interests ahead of their own. There are a variety of situations in which settlements could work to your disadvantage including:

-Settling your case without your knowledge or authorization of settlement
-Settling your case prematurely when it is not in your best interest
-Forcing you to settle against your judgment and wishes
-Failing to inform you of important developments in your case that may affect settlement
-Getting your case to cover up a mistake by your lawyer

Many times lawyers may know that they have mishandled your case and committed malpractice, but they wish to resolve it quickly in the hopes that your case will just go away. Some lawyers will go so far as to write letter after letter to the client, telling them how bad their case is, and try to force them into an inadequate resolution. They may even go so far as to accept a settlement offer on the client’s behalf without the clients’ authorization to do so. If your attorney has handled your case improperly or failed to inform you of a settlement offer we can help.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Economic Downturn: Will Lawyers Pay The Price?

Experts are predicting that the current economic downturn will lead to a nationwide increase in the number of legal malpractice suits. This includes legal malpractice by Connecticut attorneys. The main theory is that lawyers who are feeling the bite of the economic recession will begin to take on work outside their normal core practice areas. Areas, that in the past, they typically would have referred to a lawyer with more specialized knowledge in that area of law.

Unfortunately, when lawyers take on cases that are outside of their normal skill set, the chances that they will miss a deadline or screw up something else skyrockets. The result is that clients get harmed, but we can help. The message that needs to be taken from this is that now, more than ever, it’s important for clients and attorneys to make sure that cases are handled by lawyers that are knowledgeable in the particular area of law involved in the case.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Protect Yourself From People Behaving Badly: One Lawyer's Philosophy On Legal Malpractice

A lawyer once asked me - how can you sue other lawyers, isn't it like eating your own? My response is simple - our system works to make the medical profession better by holding doctors responsible for their actions and to provide for compensation to victims damaged by the negligence of a doctor. It must do the same for individuals damaged by lawyers. It is simple - victims of a lawyer’s malpractice, where a lawyer screwed up, also deserve and are entitled to compensation for their damages. Lawyers behaving badly, just like anyone else, need to understand that they are not immune from compensating the victim. We Can Help!

This is just an intro on my philosophy about Malpractice – 100’s of years ago it was considered revolutionary to allow people to seek damages from each other for injuries caused by negligence. This was both to foster a sense of justice, but also to avoid literal attempts at self help - an eye for an eye. Today when someone is negligent, which is nothing more than the failure to act as others would or should in the same situation, our courts provide for a shifting of the burden of the injuries from the person who negligently caused the injury to the injured person - or family of - the injured person. This applies whether it is a simple automobile crash or the malpractice of a professional such as a lawyer, doctor, architect or an accountant. We sue these professionals on behalf of our clients. Through this Blog I hope you will both better understand what it is that we do when we sue doctors, lawyers or other professionals who have behaved badly, but also that you may find a way to avoid this very same thing from happening to you or someone you love.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Lawyers Really Screw Up – Missing Deadlines

Almost 20% of malpractice claims against lawyers are because they blew a deadline, otherwise known as a statute of limitation. A statute of limitation is a law that provides for a time period that, once past, forever bars someone from pursuing a particular legal claim. Missing a statute of limitation can compromise a client’s entire case and lead to serious legal and financial consequences.

If you’ve been victimized by the negligence or incompetence of a lawyer who wasted time suing the wrong defendant, or filed the wrong claim, we can help. Our legal malpractice attorneys hold other lawyers accountable because many of these attorney errors could have been avoided. These mistakes cost clients money and are frequently grounds for a legal malpractice action. In this day and age of computers and sophisticated diary programs lawyers should not be missing deadlines but when they do, we can help by filing a legal malpractice lawsuit against your former attorney.

Holding Lawyers Accountable: Connecticut Legal Malpractice Attorneys

Most people know that lawyers can sue doctors, nurses, accountants, engineers and other professionals for damages and deaths that they’ve caused through what lawyers and judges call deviating from the standard of care. However, times have changed, and malpractice
law now includes a growing variety of negligent or unethical behaviors by lawyers. Our attorneys have a wealth of experience handling all types of legal malpractice matters.

Connecticut lawyers are licensed and sworn to provide competent, diligent and honest representation to their clients. As lawyers, we have a fiduciary duty to always represent our client’s best interests. When Connecticut lawyers fail to properly represent their client’s interests, we can help.

The experienced attorneys at Stanger & Arnold, LLP have provided skilled legal malpractice representation for clients throughout Connecticut. Contact our firm today to schedule a confidential consultation with one of our experienced attorney negligence lawyers.