Tuesday, August 27, 2013


Very few lawyers handle cases against professionals on a regular basis, we do.   We handle claims against accountants, doctors, lawyers, engineers as well as other types of litigation.  Although we sue other professionals on a regular basis, one area that we focus on is suing lawyers for committing legal malpractice. 

What to look for when hiring a lawyer to sue another lawyer. 
1.       Have they sued lawyers before?  There are some important unique rules having to do with suing lawyers.  You have already been hurt by a lawyer who did not know what they were doing, don’t let it happen again.

2.       Are they prepared to take the case to court if the other side won’t pay a fair settlement?

3.       Do they think you have a good case?  Why?  Be concerned about a lawyer who says she knows all about the law having to do with the screw up of the professional you have a claim against.  You want to hire a lawyer who understands the law of malpractice.  The lawyer you hire should help you understand what experts (often lawyers) are needed to prove your case.  To bring a case of malpractice your lawyer MUST retain an expert outside of the firm she is practicing in, who knows the professional responsibility of the specific area of law that the case is about.  For example a real estate lawyer if it was a closing, or a securities lawyer if the underlying transaction was related to a securities deal must be hired to act as an expert.  The courts will not allow the case to proceed without an expert, except in the rarest of cases.  The lawyer representing you in the malpractice case is simply not permitted to offer her opinion as to what your first lawyer did wrong. 

4.       Does the lawyer you are hiring have a wide web of friends and colleagues they can call upon to act as an expert.

5.       Does the lawyer you are hiring have other lawyers and paralegals who are experienced in legal malpractice?  Two heads are better than one.

6.       As with anyone you hire, do you feel that she is willing to take the time to clearly explain to you how the case will likely evolve if you hire her.

Call us anytime and let me know how I do in meeting the criteria I suggest above.   Bruce Stanger, 860-561-0651

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Caring Over Anger Often Wins The Day

My response to The Wall Street Journals article on: "Lawyers Behaving Badly Get A Dressing Down From Civility Cops".

In his plea for damages for the permanent disfigurement of his client, the story goes that a Hartford area lawyer decades ago got up for closing argument and sang a few bars of I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face to the jury. It was not the stormy rhetoric that you often see in TV dramas.

Early in my career, in the 70's, I was suing the manufacturer for what we claimed was a defective truck that my client was driving when a crash occurred killing a passenger in a car her truck hit. My clients physical injury was limited to difficulty with her hand which caused her to drop things. Yet her emotional injury from the allegations that it was her negligence that caused the crash, and the death of the innocent passenger, were very real. I was young and new in the office, it was considered a small case because the physical and medical damages (what we call hard damages) were small. So they gave it to the new kid, me 40 years ago. When it came time for closing argument I stood, dropped a piece of paper and said what do think Joyce (name changed here) relived each time she dropped something because of her injury on that awful day. I sat down. The jury understood and rendered a verdict for ten times the amount the judge had suggested my client should take in settlement. I was hooked, trying cases was challenging and rewarding. I could have done a closing argument filled with anger and frustration with the truck manufacturer, but I sensed a better approach was to be sure the Jury truly understood the nature of my clients ongoing injury.

Stormy rhetoric makes good TV, and sometimes it is critical in a court room or in a negotiation. But more times than not civility and caring are the tools a lawyer should be using to persuade the other side in a negotiation/mediation or the Jury in a trial. Unfortunately many of our lawyers and possibly our society have lost a real understanding of what it takes to earn the respect and understanding of others. Lack of civility is a serious problem that bar associations have been trying to deal with.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Should Lance Armstrong Sue His Lawyers?

There were lawsuits against Lance Armstrong before he went on Oprah, but more after. Reported to be worth over 125 million dollars it is a good bet that Armstrong consulted with his lawyers and PR consultants about what he would and would not admit to on television.

Connecticut does not allow the jury to hear an admission by the party being sued with one major exception. If a lawyer says I am sorry I screwed up it goes into evidence. If a driver of a car who causes an accident says he was drunk it goes into evidence. But if a doctor says sorry I amputated the wrong leg it does not go into evidence. The doctors and hospitals got our legislature to bar evidence of apologies or admissions by doctors because they have long known that patients who feel loved and taken care of or at least if they feel the doc was straight with them are more likely to forgive and forget. So was it the PR advisors or the lawyers who told Armstrong to come clean to avoid being sued. I doubt it. It is hard to believe that they thought these big corporations and the US government would not sue. The suits have been reported to claim 100 million dollars. Showing some love would not be enough.

Did Armstrong's lawyers intend to influence the jurors? If you believe as I do that the tide of public opinion had turned overwhelmingly towards a belief that Armstrong was a liar, then I would not be surprised if the lawyers were thinking long term. Big cases often include focus groups. We use them, see our article "Let Them Mock You". I wouldn't be surprised if the lawyers told Armstrong he had to do something to sway public opinion. He had already done the non-profit thing and he had the sympathy of surviving cancer, short of single handed rescue of many children and pets from a burning building or rescuing a score of people from a flood of epic proportions, what could he do but admit what he had done. Oddly I didn't hear a true "I am sorry", nor did I hear "I shamed myself, my sport and all those that I cared for.." But maybe that was too much to expect even if it could have been a shot at trying to garner favor with those who may later get to judge him.

Lets go forward in time, imagine that Armstrong is on the witness stand and is being pounded by the lawyer for the US government pointing to the clause in the contract Armstrong signed where he promised he would not do anything to shame the good name of the Postal Service (I am assuming the contract was very clear). The lawyer drives home the point that Armstrong denied for years what he later admitted on Oprah; that he cheated. Armstrong may be wondering, if his lawyers advised him to come clean on Oprah, why he listened to them. To answer the question of whether Armstrong should sue his lawyer if the lawyer told him to come clean; my answer is a simple no way. Who is going to think Armstrong was wronged by a lawyer; there is a bad lawyer joke in comparing Armstrong and a lawyer. Who knows how things would have turned out if people perceived Armstrong as truly repentant? Can Armstrong really show he was damaged by telling the truth, a necessary element of a Malpractice claim? Is a jury really going to want to side with the cheater over the lawyer?