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City says attorney didn't do research, costing it millions

Town officials in another state say that ineffective counsel from the municipality’s attorney cost it big bucks in a whistleblower lawsuit. The city settled the case for $4.5 million. Now it is pursuing a legal malpractice claim against the attorney, in a trial that began late in September and has lasted several days.

The town’s mayor, who was a councilman at the time of the original litigation, took the stand on Oct. 7. He described the circumstances that led him and other city officials to hire the accused attorney and eventually agree to the settlement.

The case revolved around accusations from a whistleblower that the town was defrauding Medicare and violating federal law. To defend itself, the town hired the attorney in September 2009.

According to the now-mayor, the attorney initially believed the case could go several ways, including in victory for the city. But by April 2010, he painted a much less positive picture. The mayor recalled that the lawyer told the city council that they were in a “no-win situation.” The attorney said that the city had been budgeting for ambulance calls to bill Medicare at a much higher rate than average, just as the whistleblower had claimed.

The city council agreed to settle the case for $4.5 million in payments to the whistleblower. But the witness said he later learned from the fire chief and EMS director that the attorney and experts he had hired had never reviewed the city’s ambulance runs to see if they had been billed accurately.

As a result of those discussions, the city council became convinced that the attorney’s conclusions had not been based on sufficient evidence. The result was a settlement that will cost it millions of dollars over several years.

You do not have to be a government entity or large corporation to be the victim of legal malpractice. An individual can lose a substantial amount of money due to ineffective counsel or mistakes by their attorney.

Source: Clinton Herald, “Mayor Vulich takes the stand during trial,” Katie Dahlstrom, Oct. 8, 2013

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