Monday, December 27, 2010

How Do I Know If I Have a Legal Malpractice Case?

Clients often wonder what that they need to establish in order to bring a legal malpractice claim against their lawyer. Is the fact that my lawyer did something wrong enough? Do I need another lawyer to say that my lawyer screwed up?

The client, or legal malpractice lawyer that the client has hired, needs to prove several things in order to bring a legal malpractice claim. First, there has to be proof that the lawyer had a duty to the client to act properly. That is easy if you are a lawyer – there was a duty to take care of you. Next, there has to be proof that the lawyer breached that duty by acting negligently. This breach can be accomplished by proving that the lawyer made a mistake that an average lawyer would not have made. In some cases it is helpful to have another lawyer provide an opinion of what the lawyer should have done in the situation; that’s our job to find a lawyer to testify if we take on a case.

There also has to be proof that the lawyer’s negligent behavior caused damage to the client. Ultimately, did the lawyer’s negligence damage the client. This is just like a car accident case; did the other diver’s negligence injure someone.

The best way for a client to determine whether or not they have the necessary elements to justify bringing a legal malpractice claim is to call one of our experienced legal malpractice attorneys and ask there is no charge for the call. We are here to help.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Why Settle?

Often times when an injured party initiates an action in court, they have questions about the process, especially if this is their first time trying to navigate the legal system. One of the most prevalent questions is “why should I settle my case”?

In order to answer that question, the client will look to his or her attorney for advice. Settling the case for a number that is fair is a great resolution for all parties involved. The problem arises when the attorney advises the client to settle their case for an amount that is unfair.

There are times when attorneys screw up by failing to properly value a client’s case. This sometimes occurs when the attorney improperly advises a client to settle his or her case for an amount that is much lower than what the case is worth. Other times it occurs when the attorney fails to advise a client to settle for a reasonable amount and the client ends up with a verdict or settlement much lower in the future.

Although results are not guaranteed, attorneys do owe their clients appropriate advice regarding what is or is not a proper resolution for their case. The failure to provide a client with appropriate advice is malpractice and the injured party should be compensated by the attorney who screwed up.

Each case is different regarding the time it takes to settle. Your attorney should be working with you during the settlement process and advising you of your options. If your attorney is pressuring you to settle your case for an amount that is too low or too early on in the process, get another opinion on the value, get another lawyer or contact our office today to discuss your potential legal malpractice options.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Reasonable Attorneys Fees

When a client meets with an attorney to initiate a legal action, there are many topics that are discussed during the initial consultation. One of the topics that often stands out to the client is the discussion of attorney’s fees. Each office has a different system in which they bill for attorney and legal staff time while pursuing the action.

Sometimes attorneys charge for their time on a contingency fee basis. This means the attorney does not bill the client for their time hourly, but instead agrees to be compensated when the case has concluded for a portion of the settlement. This is often attractive to the client because he/she does not have to write a check for the attorney’s time every month and if the case is unsuccessful, the attorney will only be reimbursed for the costs incurred while pursing the action.

Some cases cannot be pursued on a contingency fee basis, such as divorce matters, the drafting of a Last Will and Testament and estate matters, to name a few. For these types of cases, attorneys will bill the client for their time and their staff’s time on an hourly basis. The client may be asked to pay the attorney a retainer to initiate the action, and then the attorney will bill the client monthly once the retainer has been depleted.

If a case settles before the attorney’s billable time uses the entire amount of the client’s retainer, then the client should be reimbursed the unused portion. If you think your attorney improperly charged you or failed to refund the unused portion of your retainer, call us, we can help you consider your legal malpractice options.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

It’s All in the Complaint

After the client comes in to meet with the attorney for the initial meeting, the paperwork has been signed and the law firm gets to work on compiling documentation to prove the claim. Sometime between when the client walks through the law firm doors and before the statute of limitations expires, the attorney handling the case files a Complaint with the Court. The Complaint sets forth the client’s allegations and is an essential part of the lawsuit.

If when the attorney is filing the Complaint, she misses an important claim, fails to include all the responsible parties or even over looks some of the client’s most valuable damages, she may be liable for legal malpractice. The Court may not allow these important issues to be brought into the claim at the later stages of the court proceedings and by having failed to include these important pieces in the Complaint, she has made her client’s claim less valuable. Contact our office today to discuss your potential legal malpractice claim.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Legal Malpractice on the Eve of Trial

When a case is presented at trial, the client often feels a sense of relief that their matter will finally be resolved. All the time and preparation that went into getting the ready case will be put to good use. However, just because a case has made its way to a trial, that does not mean that the lawyer trying it cannot still be held liable if they commit legal malpractice, even at this late stage in the process.

After the lawyer spends countless hours filing pleadings, answering and issuing discovery, the case still needs to be prepared appropriately for trial. If the lawyer misses an important trial deadline or fails to properly disclose crucial expert witnesses to testify at trial and the client’s case suffers as a result, the lawyer may be liable for legal malpractice. 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.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

No Fee Agreement Doesn’t Mean No Legal Malpractice Exposure

One of the first things that clients do once they decide to hire a lawyer to represent them is sign a representation/fee agreement with that lawyer. The content of said agreement varies depending on the type of matter the client has. However, a lawyer failing to have a client execute a representation/fee agreement does not negate the lawyer’s exposure for legal malpractice.

The representation/fee agreement certainly makes it clear to all involved that the lawyer has agreed to represent the client and the client has agreed to pay the lawyer for his or her time and work. Once the agreement has been executed, the lawyer begins to work on the file, making telephone calls on behalf of the client, drafting documents pertaining to the matter, even scheduling meetings with potential experts for the case. These actions imply that the lawyer is representing the client and thus the work the lawyer is performing is subject to the same rules of professional conduct, as they would be if a representation agreement were signed.

Just because the lawyer has not asked the client execute a representation/ fee agreement, it does not mean that the lawyer’s actions on behalf of the client are not construed as a lawyer-client relationship. If a lawyer working on your behalf may have committed legal malpractice, call our office today to discuss your options.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Legal Malpractice for Withdrawing the Case

There are many reasons for a lawyer to withdraw a client’s case from the court system. Usually, the withdrawal occurs after a settlement agreement has been reached and the releases have been executed, and signifies an end to litigation.

A lawyer may also withdraw from representation of a client. This may occur for any number of reasons including an inability to work together or a client’s selection of another lawyer to handle the case. In these situations, replacement counsel files an appearance in the case and the pervious lawyer will be withdrawn from the case.

Neither of these first two examples would be a basis for a legal malpractice claim. However, if a lawyer files a withdrawal of a case that is in suit, without first advising the client, the client may be unable to revive the lawsuit and the client may have a legal malpractice claim against their lawyer. If the client is unaware that this withdrawal has been filed, he or she will not be aware that they need to seek alternate representation and this lapse in time could lead to many additional issues with their case, including missing deadlines with the Court or inability to maintain a claim.

If your case is in suit, and you are unsure of its status, contact your lawyer or look your case up online at http://civilinquiry.jud.ct.gov/.

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.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Legal Malpractice Extends to Foreclosure Matters

Legal malpractice occurs when a lawyer fails to provide the client with competent professional service and as a result of such, the client suffers damages. Legal malpractice is not limited to just one area of the law. Lawyers handle many different types of cases and the professional duty to each and every client still exists, regardless of the type of case.

More recently, with regard to foreclosure matters, the catchy phrase “show me the money” has been replaced with “show me the note”. Homeowners on the verge of foreclosure are demanding that the mortgage holder show them the mortgage and the note so the homeowner can see proof that the mortgage holder does hold their indebtedness. Trial courts have, in recent cases, dismissed some foreclosure cases when the bank is unable to produce the note.

This may become a more widespread problem due to the fact that many mortgages have been transferred from the original lender into the banking system and eventually sold to pools of investors.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Unprepared Attorney is No Reason to Settle

When a client is selecting an attorney to represent their interests in a case, they do so with the understanding that they are entrusting that attorney to diligently handle their matter. For most clients, this case is their first experience with the legal system, and for that reason, they select an attorney who is competent to not only handle the matter but advise them along the way.

When the time comes to discuss potential settlement of the case, the client often looks to his/her attorney for guidance. Since the attorney has more experience with the legal system, the client trusts that their attorney will make the appropriate recommendations. There may be many different reasons for an attorney to recommend that their client settle a case. For example, the offer may be reasonable for the damages suffered or the client may be ill and not wish to proceed to trial, so they make the decision to settle their case for the current offer.

However, if the attorney is not prepared to go forward with the litigation of the case due to the fact that she has not engaged in any discovery and trial is in the upcoming weeks, that basis alone, should not be a reason for settling a client’s case. If your attorney failed to properly handle your case, or advised you to settle because they were not prepare to move forward with the next step, call our office today to discus your possible legal malpractice claim.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Lawyers: More Then Just a Punch Line

Lawyer jokes, everybody’s heard them, and probably have even told some. The truth is, lawyers often obtain excellent results for their clients. When someone is injured in a car accident and loses the ability to walk, they hire a lawyer to fight for their right to compensation not only for their inability to walk but their inability to work, medical bills they were caused to incur, and pain and suffering. In the emotional, difficult cauldron of a divorce case, clients rely on their lawyer to ensure that their interests and their child’s future are protected.

That said, sometimes the jokes contain a modicum of truth. Like any other profession, the practice of law draws all kinds of people, and sometimes lawyers find themselves in the news headlines for some not so flattering dealings. For example, a case of wine gets accidently delivered to the wrong address (the address happens to be that of a lawyer) and the lawyer refuses to return it to its rightful owner. The lawyer then claims that he ‘gave the wine away’. Or, a lawyer takes a handicapped parking pass from a disabled client so that he can park in spaces closer to the courthouse. Or, a lawyer represents a client in a foreclosure matter and then after the client moves out of the condo, the lawyer moves in, rent free, for a year while stalling the foreclosure proceedings. Believe it or not, these are true stories which have appeared in the media about lawyers.

Everyone – even lawyers – enjoy a good lawyer joke or two. The jokes lose their humor, however, when the client is the one who suffers. If your lawyer has made a mistake that cost you your case, they may be liable for Connecticut legal malpractice, and we can help.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Is Broken Confidentiality Legal Malpractice?

The foundation of a trusting relationship between the attorney and the client is based primarily on the attorney-client privilege. The attorney needs his/her client to be able to speak openly and honestly about the circumstances surrounding the client’s case. In order for the client to feel comfortable doing so, the client must know that they are able to trust their attorney with this confidential information.

Once the client hires an attorney, the attorney-client relationship forms and the client’s information is held in the strictest confidence by the attorney. There is an expectation that the attorney will keep the details of the client’s case confidential, this includes the attorney not exposing any details in person, in writing or over the telephone to persons not directly involved in the case. For example, it is reasonable for the client to assume that the medical records they have released to their attorney will remain confidential and that their attorney will not post them on an internet website.

There are, however, ways in which the attorney-client confidentiality is waived by the client. For example, if the client chooses to bring someone with them to a meeting between the client and the attorney, it is understood that the client is willing to share this information with the other person. In this case, the confidentiality is broken, but there has been no legal malpractice.

If the attorney you hired to handle your case, breached the attorney-client privilege in some way, contact our office to see if you have a legal malpractice claim.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Economy and It’s Effect on Legal Malpractice Cases

Experts are predicting that the current state of the economy will cause an increase in legal malpractice cases. Injuryboard.com posted an article which laid out a few different reasons for this increase. One of the reasons listed is that lawyers begin practicing in areas of the law that are outside their normal area of practice.

Lawyers are not exempt from feeling the financial strain during a recession. In fact, many lawyers will take on work that they would normally refer to someone with more knowledge and experience in that area. Choosing to handle a file in an area of law that the lawyer does not typically handle can lead to a lot of errors being made, deadlines being missed and eventually may lead to a legal malpractice claim.

More legal malpractice claims are expected to arise in the near future regarding fraud, failed financial agreements, foreclosures and bankruptcy cases. Typically, the experts say that the increase in these legal malpractice cases will show up within a few years following the economic recession. Contact our office to discuss your possible legal malpractice claim.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Conflict of Interests Can Lead to Legal Malpractice

The legal field has become more competitive and aggressive in recent years and with more and more potential clients calling in to discuss cases, it is easy to see how things might fall through the cracks. When taking on new clients, lawyers should be careful ensure that they are not taking on a new client that poses a conflict of interests with either their personal interests or their professional interests.

A good way to avoid running into a problem with a conflict of interests is to set up a system whereby new clients can be cross checked against previous and/or existing clients. If after a search such as this is conducted and a red flag comes up, the lawyer can turn the potential new client away or have the potential new client give their written consent of representation, so long as the representation does not involve a claim by one client against another client.

Lawyers have a duty to represent their clients diligently and when a conflict of interests arises and is not dealt with properly, there is exposure for a legal malpractice claim. If your lawyer failed to disclose a conflict of interests in your case, click here to contact one of our experienced legal malpractice lawyers today.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Social Networking Websites and How They Effect the Legal Profession

In this day and age, the internet not only provides an excellent source for researching, the new social networking sites (like Facebook, Twitter and Myspace) are giving people more opportunities to exchange ideas and information with one another. The question becomes, when lawyers are communicating with prospective clients via these social networking sites, are they in danger of committing legal malpractice?

It is best for lawyers to establish a code of behavior before engaging in communication over these social networking sites. There is an expectation of privacy when information is being exchanged; however, once that information is uploaded onto the internet, it is available for anyone to see. A few of the dangers of posting on Facebook and other social networking sites are the potential to disclose client confidences, the potential to discuss pending matters, and walking the fine line of being informative without turning off clients or followers.
When a lawyer receives a scenario from a potential client and discusses the client’s options, these discussions can be considered legal advice which can also imply a lawyer-client relationship. The best way to avoid any confusion about this lawyer-client relationship is to hold any legal discussions in a more formal manner rather than conducting discussions over social networking sites. If you received improper legal advice over a social networking site, call our office today and discuss your options.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

What is a Statute of Limitations?

A commonly used but maybe not always completely understood legal phrase, statute of limitations, is often the basis for a legal malpractice claim. A statute of limitations places a time limit on pursuing a legal remedy for wrongful conduct. After the statute of limitations expires, the injured party loses the right to file a lawsuit to recover damages. The time limit begins at the time the injury is suffered.

There are different time limits for when an action must be commenced based on the type of case it is. For example, the statute of limitations for a personal injury claim is different than that of a contract claim. Additionally, there are a few reasons for which a statute of limitations may be “tolled”, meaning something has stopped the statute from running for a period of time.

If a person is injured and wants to bring a claim against the responsible party, it must be done within the time set out by the statute of limitations. An attorney’s failure to bring suit within that timeframe can cause the case to be dismissed and essentially, cause the injured party to become a victim for a second time. If the attorney you hired to handle your case missed the statute of limitations, contact our office to discuss your options.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Jilted Bride Sues Ex-Fiance and then Former Friend/Lawyer

There is an interesting case out of Illinois that may have started out as a violation of the Illinois Breach of Promises Act, but it ended in a legal malpractice claim. The case is Wildey v. Paulsen. The Plaintiff in the case was a licensed attorney who decided to sue her ex-fiancé after he broke off their engagement. After receiving the news, Wildey discussed the possibility of bringing suit against her former groom-to-be with her friend and attorney, Paulsen.

Wildey drafted a letter to her ex-fiancĂ© putting him on notice of the fact that she was planning on filing a lawsuit against him, which is a requirement of the Illinois Breach of Promises Act. The only problem with Wildey’s notice was that she failed to include the date of the engagement, which is a necessity under the Act. Neither Wildey nor Paulsen corrected this vital error.

After Wildey sent the notice, she signed a retainer agreement with Paulsen, however, she never paid Paulsen for any work which she had done on the file. The case was removed to federal court, tried before a jury and Wildey received a verdict in the amount of $118,000. This verdict was short lived, as it was appealed and reversed due to the fact that Wildey did not comply with the notice requirement because she left out the engagement date.

After having the verdict overturned, Wildey then filed a legal malpractice lawsuit against Paulsen seeking to recover the verdict which she lost in federal court along with damages for her pain and suffering. Unfortunately for Wildey, the Court determined that under the Act she was only entitled to recover actual damages, not damages for pain and suffering. Therefore, even though the Court determined that an attorney client relationship existed and was breached, Wildey was only able to recover $100 for wedding dress alterations.

This just goes to show that legal malpractice claims can arise out of an underlying case concerning just about anything. Click here to get more information about how our office can help with your legal malpractice action.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

‘Uncharted Waters’ – When Your Lawyer is Acting Outside his Comfort Zone

Many law firms advertise as being ‘general practice’ firms, able to handle a variety of legal issues for their clients. While there is nothing unusual about this, problems may arise when a lawyer or law firm takes on a new matter in a practice area they are unfamiliar with.

This frequently occurs when an existing client has a need for assistance in a new area of law. The attorney, not wanting to lose the client or eager to earn an extra fee, takes on the new matter even though he has no experience in the area of law in question. Being unfamiliar with the new area of law, the attorney is far more likely to make critical mistakes that cost his client.

Just because an attorney hasn’t worked in an area of law before does not mean he is not competent to handle the matter. Attorneys can provide competent representation in a new area through partnering with other lawyers, researching the new area of law, or by devoting additional time to the representation.

Some lawyers, however, do not put forth this additional effort and simply ‘wing it’. Doing so puts their client at great risk, and may be grounds for a legal malpractice claim if the client’s case is compromised. When the lawyer is paid hourly, there is a risk that the client is bearing the cost of the lawyer ‘learning on the job’ through higher fees.

If the lawyer you hired to handle your case is working outside of their area of expertise, and you believe your case has been compromised as a result, call our office today to discuss your potential legal malpractice case and your options for recovery.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Going from Named Partner to First Year Associate (Part 2)

Remember our friend Jim from the deposition, well he has once again agreed to hire Law Firm A and specifically, Attorney Ace, to handle his case. This time, Jim is told to attend a Pretrial conference at the Courthouse. When Jim arrives, he learns that Attorney Ace is not able to make it but that Attorney Newer will be covering the matter.

At the Pretrial conference Attorney Newer advises Jim to take a $2,500 settlement offer because he believes that is the most that Jim will ever recover for his case. Jim is unsure of what to do because when he initially met with Attorney Ace, he was told that his case was worth more in the range of $25,000. Jim wants to take some time to think about the offer but Attorney Newer advises that if he does not give an immediate response, the offer will be withdrawn, no future offers will be made and Jim stands a good chance of not recovering anything at Trial. Attorney Newer again advises that Jim needs to accept the settlement offer. Reluctantly, Jim agrees to settle his case for $2,500.

Now, if Attorney Newer and Attorney Ace discussed the case and found that the facts supported that $2,500 was a fair value for his case, then Jim does not have a legal malpractice case. However, if Attorney Ace truly believed that $25,000 was a more appropriate range for settlement because of an important expert report which had been disclosed, but Attorney Newer overlooked. Then Attorney Newer advised Jim to settle for a much lower figure because of this oversight, Jim might have a legal malpractice case.

If you feel that your case was not properly handled by the attorney you hired to represent you, call our office and speak with one of our experienced attorneys today.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Going from Named Partner to First Year Associate (Part 1)

When a client decides to hire a lawyer to represent him for a case, he selects someone he feels confident in. The client meets with the lawyer for the initial consultation, signs the paperwork and the process begins. The client leaves the meeting with the belief that the lawyer he has just met with will be the lawyer working on his case.

For example, Jim goes to Law Firm A and meets with Attorney Ace. Attorney Ace advises Jim about his case, Jim signs the paperwork to get the action started and they shake hands. The next time Jim hears from Law Firm A, it is to advise him that he has to come to the office for a deposition.

When Jim arrives at his deposition, he expects to see Attorney Ace but instead is told that Attorney New, a young associate with Law Firm A, will be covering his deposition. Surprised by this change, Jim is discouraged but goes along with what Attorney New is advising. Although it may not be good business, it is not legal malpractice to have a case handled by another lawyer in the office without previously advising the client of the change. Often times, scheduling conflicts arise and there is no other option but to have someone else cover the matter.

However, during Jim’s deposition, Attorney New fails to ask critical questions due to his inexperience in that area of law and this causes major issues to come up that lead to Jim’s case being dismissed. Jim could have a legal malpractice case as a result of Attorney New’s errors.

Call our office today to discuss your potential legal malpractice matter.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Are Attorneys Liable to Anyone Other Than Their Client?

Professionals, specifically attorneys, are held to a higher standard of care than most. Attorneys are selected to represent a client and they have a duty to do so to the best of their experience and ability. When a professional makes an error and the client suffers damages, the professional can be held liable for those damages. When a consenting client does not think his attorney is performing reasonably, he has the option to file a malpractice lawsuit. However, if the person damaged as a result of the attorney’s performance is not a consenting client, but instead a third party beneficiary, what are his options?

It use to be that a third party beneficiary could not sue an attorney for malpractice, since no attorney-client relationship exists between them. In the 1980’s an exception emerged, allowing a third party beneficiary of a will to recover against the attorney who negligently drafted the will. The third party beneficiary must prove that the main purpose and intent of the initial attorney-client relationship was to benefit and/or influence the third party beneficiary. The Courts have dealt with issues for third party beneficiaries in areas including drafting and execution of wills, business transactions, real estate transactions and intentional torts.

The Connecticut Courts may not impose liability on the attorney when it can potentially interfere with the ethical obligations owed by an attorney to their client. There are limits to the attorney-client relationship and attorneys should be deterred from performing acts which will cause injury to the client or to a third party beneficiary. If you are a third party beneficiary who has been injured as a result of an attorney’s wrongdoing, click here to contact our office. Article: Looking Over Your Shoulder: Where to Look and How Far to See.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Is an Unreturned Telephone Call Legal Malpractice?

Many people wonder whether an attorney not returning telephone calls is legal malpractice. Complaints about attorneys being non-responsive are among the most common complaints by clients about lawyers. Many frustrated clients describe calling their lawyer time and time again, and not receiving a return call. This leaves many wondering if the messages ever got passed along to the attorney or if the attorney is even paying attorney to their case.

Under Connecticut’s ethical rules, lawyers have an obligation to communicate reasonably with each of their clients. What constitutes “reasonable communication”, however, depends on the circumstances. Certainly, a client’s telephone call should be returned, either by the lawyer or a knowledgeable staff member, and the client’s questions should be answered. However, failing to return a telephone call, by itself, rarely constitutes legal malpractice.

However, if you feel you have an important question that needs a more immediate response or you have not heard from your lawyer since the day you first met with her, be sure to follow-up, even in writing, to let them know that you have been trying to reach them and have not been able to. Your lawyer should be keeping you up to date on important developments in your case and should be answering the questions you have. Especially when important events are coming up in your case (for example, trial, your deposition or a settlement conference), your lawyer or her staff should be in touch with you.

Although communication is one of the most common complaints about attorneys, legal malpractice requires not only a breach of care by the lawyer but also damages caused by that breach. Simply not returning a telephone call usually does not fall under that category, unless it leads to the client’s interests being compromised in some way. If you believe your lawyer’s failure to communicate with you has compromised your interest, we would be happy to talk with you about those concerns and discuss your options with you. Click here to contact our office.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Restitution for Legal Malpractice from the Statewide Grievance Committee

After having a case improperly handled by an attorney, having to pay additional monies to bring an action against them in Court sometimes is not justified by the amount the victim is seeking to recover. If the case is too small to give reason to initiate a lawsuit, the Statewide Grievance Committee has the ability award restitution for a legal malpractice claim by sanctioning the former attorney. By awarding restitution in this manner, the victim does not have to incur the costs of starting a separate proceeding in Court.

There is no regulation as to when the Statewide Grievance Committee should order restitution. However, they are permitted to act in a creative manner when sanctions are assigned, such as ordering an attorney to attend Continuing Legal Education. The Statewide Grievance Committee has chosen to only award restitution as a way to compensate injured parties for loses in a limited group of cases. More often, they have ordered restitution in the form of sanctions in an effort to return property to the rightful owner or to prevent an attorney from benefiting from a violation of her professional responsibility.

The main purpose of bringing a matter before the Statewide Grievance Committee is to discipline an attorney, not seek compensation for the victim of legal malpractice. It is sometimes difficult to calculate damages for a client’s case and often times expert testimony is necessary to accomplish this. If the case is such that it requires expert testimony, then it is more appropriate for that type of case to be heard by a trial court and not before the Statewide Grievance Committee. Click here to contact our office to discuss your legal malpractice case. Article: Mal Practice-Small Claims?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Billy Blanks' $30 Million Judgment Gets Kicked Back

In 2005, the Tae Bo creator, Billy Blanks, was awarded a $30 million verdict for a legal malpractice claim he brought against his lawyer. Blanks hired a lawyer to file suit against his former accountant turned manager once Blanks learned that he was not a licensed agent in the state of California under the California Talent Agencies Act. In order for Blanks to recover the monies he had paid to his manager during that time period, his lawyer needed to bring suit with the Labor Commission within one year after payment to the unlicensed manager.

Blanks’ lawyer not only missed the filing deadline, he also brought the action in the wrong venue which caused Blanks’ action to be dismissed. Blanks’ then filed suit against his attorney for legal malpractice. His challenge was to prove not only that the lawyer had been negligent and he had to prove that if the lawyer had not been negligent, he would have recovered damages against his manager.

After a 6 week trial, the Jury hit Blanks’ attorney with a $30 million judgment. This judgment was then appealed and the Appellate Court determined that the jury was not properly instructed and the case was sent back to the Trial Court. So Billy Blanks has to get back in the ring with his former attorney for Round Two.

Mistakes like this case happen. When an attorney fails to file suit timely or files suit in the wrong venue, our experienced attorneys can help you recover.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Standard of Care Equal for All Cases

One of the fears most people have about bringing any type of action to an attorney is a fear that their action will not be handled with the same attention as a multi-million dollar action. The truth is, attorneys owe a duty of diligence to each and every client they represent.

The more complex issues involved in a multi-million dollar action may require more time and preparation then a more standard “run of the mill” action and there is no requirement that an attorney spend the same amount of time handling both types of cases. In fact, some of the expensive preparation measures that are helpful and often times, necessary, when litigating a multi-million dollar action, would not be proper in a more standard action and would result in an increase in costs and expenses which would be the client’s responsibility.

Remember, it is just as easy for an attorney to commit legal malpractice on a standard “run of the mill” action as it would be to commit legal malpractice on a multi-million dollar action. Just because an attorney expends less time preparing a case, does not mean that there is less of a standard of care. If you feel that your attorney did not handle your matter with the proper standard of care, we can help. Call us or send us an e-mail. For more information on how to contact our office click here. Article: Limited Damages – Limited Effort?

Friday, April 2, 2010

Connecticut Legal Malpractice: Understanding What It Is

With several thousand lawyers practicing in the State of Connecticut, the quality of lawyers varies. Even good lawyers (or their staff) can make mistakes. When legal malpractice hurts you, then you can sue your own lawyer. That's legal malpractice.

As with any lawsuit for money damages, you have to prove three things: (1) the lawyer failed to act as a reasonably careful lawyer under the circumstances, (2) the screw up hurt you, and (3) the monetary value of your loss.

Legal malpractice claims almost always require expert testimony. Another lawyer who practices in the same field will review what your lawyer did. If the lawyer concludes that your lawyer committed malpractice, then you have a case, so long as the screw up hurt you. We can help with legal malpractice cases in Connecticut.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Attorney's Responsibility for the Acts of Others

Attorney’s have a duty to actively supervise the people who work for them and may be responsible for errors their employees commit if it is shown that the attorney was negligent in his supervisory duties.

The associates, secretaries and law clerks who work with attorneys may be in charge of important matters like drafting documents and filing papers with the court. When they fail to follow through, clients may be seriously damaged. For example, if a paralegal fails to timely file a lawsuit with the court, the client may never be able to pursue their law suit as a result of the paralegal blowing the deadline. In instances like this, the attorney who employs the paralegal would ultimately be responsible for the paralegal’s acts that are within the scope their employment. This might result on valid grounds for the client to bring a legal malpractice law suit in Connecticut and we can help.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Damages in a Connecticut Legal Malpractice Claim

When lawyers refer to “damages” in a civil lawsuit, they are talking about money the defendant may be ordered to pay to the plaintiff as compensation for his or her injuries or losses. In a civil lawsuit, if the plaintiff wins, the monetary compensation they receive will depend on the facts of the case and the court in which the lawsuit was filed.

Damages in legal malpractice are dependent on two things. First, the state law that is applicable to the case. Second, the facts surrounding the original case (the case the attorney is accused of mishandling).Typically, the damages in a Connecticut legal malpractice lawsuit will be based on what the plaintiff would have won in the original case if the attorney had not been negligent.

Though this list is not exhaustive, some of the basic rules concerning damages in Connecticut legal malpractice lawsuits are:

* If you would have won compensatory damages (money that pays for your loss, like your totaled car and your injuries in an auto accident) as the plaintiff in a civil lawsuit, but your attorney's screw up caused you to lose the suit, you may be able to collect that amount from the attorney. If you were a defendant in a law suit, and your attorney's screw up caused a judgment ordering you to pay the plaintiff, you may be able to collect that amount from the attorney.

* Sometimes, courts award punitive damages to plaintiffs. Punitive damages are awarded when the defendant is found to have acted recklessly. In Connecticut, if you would have won punitive damages in your original case had the attorney not screwed up the case; you may be able to collect these damages from the attorney in your lawsuit for legal malpractice.

* You also may be able to recover any expenses and legal fees that you paid in order to correct the problems caused by the negligent attorney.

We can help clients who have been damaged by the negligence of their lawyer. Legal malpractice is a serious matter; contact us immediately if you think your lawyer has committed legal malpractice because we can help.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Connecticut Attorney Billing Abuse

Being a lawyer is not just a profession, it is also a business. Like any business, lawyers and law firms want to make money. Unfortunately, often the drive for profits can cause billing abuses and overcharging of legal fees.

Lawyer billing abuses come in many different forms. It can include hour padding, charging for work that was never done, performing needless or questionable work, and charging for the time of several attorneys all doing the same thing. It can also include circumstances where a lawyer handles a case in a manner that is not in the best interest of the client, but rather to maximize attorney fees. A lawyer must act in the best interest of the client not herself.

Decisions on actions to be taken are sometimes made less on the basis of what’s in the best interest for the client, than it is how much can be billed for the work. A lawyer must act in the best interest of her client, not her own best interests.

We’ve helped clients who have been the victim of overcharging or billing abuse both by seeking a refund of any overpayment and by defending the client in a collection action brought by the attorney. If you feel that your attorney has inappropriately over billed you, give us a call – we can help.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Some Tips On How Clients Can Help Avoid Falling Victim

At Stanger & Arnold, we often hear about the things that go horribly wrong in an attorney-client relationship. That’s because we handle cases involving legal malpractice in Connecticut.

When hiring an attorney, it is crucial to be an "informed consumer.” When looking to hire an attorney, clients should be asking themselves:

1. How did I learn about this attorney? What is his/her reputation?
Ask a lot of questions. Interview the attorney. You are hiring them – they are your employee.

2. Do I fully understand the representation contract that I have signed with the attorney?
Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions. You should fully understand all of the elements of the contract. Your attorney should explain each part of the contract with you before expecting you to sign it.

3. Have I been provided a copy of every contract or document that I have signed?
After signing a document such as a contract, if he or she does not first offer it, request a copy from your attorney and retain it for your records.

4. Does my attorney carry malpractice insurance?
Beware - your attorney may be bare. Connecticut attorneys are not required to carry malpractice insurance. This is a big deal because if your attorney screws up and does not have malpractice insurance, he or she may not have the money to pay for any damages their error has caused you. For attorneys, a good rule of thumb is to carry as much insurance as the amount of their largest case.

These are the types of questions that clients should be thinking about when hiring an attorney. If you have questions regarding legal malpractice in Connecticut – we can help.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Connecticut Legal Malpractice Actions Carry A Three Year Statute Of Limitations

Most Connecticut legal malpractice occurs through administrative errors (i.e., failure to calendar, clerical errors, procrastination); Substantive errors (i.e., failure to know the law, conflict of interest); client relations (i.e., not following client instructions, improper withdrawal); or intentional wrongs doing such as libel, civil rights, fraud, theft, malicious prosecution.

In Connecticut, the general rule is that legal malpractice cases must be brought within three years from the time of the act of malpractice. BUT there are many ways to extend that time. So call us and we can help you understand if you have a claim. If we decide to take on your matter we can help you understand when it has to be filed by. If you don't file it within the time allowed you may loose any and all of your rights - so don't delay. If your attorney has screwed up your case and cost you money - we can help.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Connecticut Legal Malpractice: The "Case Within A Case"

In many Connecticut legal malpractice actions, the term “case within a case” arises. It typically comes up in legal malpractice cases involving a prior law suit. Basically, a "case within a case" refers to situations where a plaintiff-client claims, that due to their lawyer’s malpractice, they have completely lost their right to recover monetary damages or have recovered much less than they were entitled to because of their lawyer's screw up.

Normally, for a plaintiff-client to show that they suffered damages as a result of their lawyer’s error, they most prove that, but for the laywer's mistake, they would have won the case or at least recovered greater damages. This is the type of thing that we can help clients with.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Connecticut Legal Malpractice: Copyright and Trademark Errors

Copyright and trademark infringement cases present an interesting area of law that may lead to Connecticut legal malpractice. When advising clients about licensing, copyright and trademark issues, lawyers have a duty to offer competent and diligent advice. A failure to adequately research and render competent advice on copyright and trademark issues could lead to huge losses by a client who subsequently is sued for copyright or trademark infringement.

When lawyers screw up like this client’s are harmed – but we can help.