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?