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15 years, 3 trials, $5.75M legal malpractice judgment

Legal malpractice cases that happen in Los Angeles can be complex, but the story we have for our readers today is especially full of twists and turns. We will do our best to untangle this story of double malpractice, as it is an example of how legal representation that does not meet the standard owed to each client can cause serious problems in the client’s life.

An attorney in another state found himself in legal trouble in the late 1990s. As he was going through a difficult divorce, his ex-wife accused him of sexually abusing three of their children. He was criminally charged and eventually sentenced to 13 years in prison in 1998.

But the attorney was exonerated four years later, when a new defense attorney showed the court that his original attorneys had failed to examine evidence that could have poked serious holes in the prosecution’s claims. He was released from prison and sued his original defense attorneys for legal malpractice.

That case led to a relatively small settlement of $50,000. The attorney representing the man tried to craft the settlement so that only one of the accused attorneys was released from liability, but the law at the time said the plaintiff could only dismiss claims against all defendants in a torts case — or none of them. That meant that the attorney who the plaintiff hoped to continue pursuing a claim against had gotten off nearly scot-free.

The plaintiff later pursued a second legal malpractice case against his attorney from the first malpractice claim. The trial in that case ended late in October in his favor, with the jury awarding him $5.75 million in damages. This may be the end of the matter, 15 years after it began.

Source: Leesburg Today, “Exonerated Attorney Wins $5.75M Award In Malpractice Suit,” Erika Jacobson Moore, Nov. 13, 2013