When a client hires a lawyer for representation and advocacy in a legal matter, he or she has a reasonable expectation that the retained attorney will perform adequately, that is, in a manner commensurate with the skill and knowledge exercised by other attorneys similarly engaged.
That expectation was sorely breached, stated a doctor recently in a legal filing against a lawyer who had represented him in a personal injury matter.
Specifically, the case was borne of a wrongful death claim brought by a family member of an individual who died while under the care of the physician.
As noted in a recent media account of the legal malpractice litigation, the doctor had malpractice insurance with a ceiling amount of $1 million in place when a wrongful death lawsuit was commenced against him in 2011. Reportedly, the plaintiff offered to settle her claim within the policy limits.
The physician hired the attorney for legal representation, with the complaint stating that the lawyer was advised to instruct the insurer to settle. The doctor noted that he communicated his fear of being on the hook for personal assets if a judgment issued that exceeded the policy’s limits.
The lawyer counseled against settlement. Ultimately, a jury ruled for the plaintiff in the amount of $3.75 million, which indeed exposed the physician to a high amount of person liability to settle the claim.
The legal malpractice lawsuit subsequently filed by the doctor alleges that the lawyer failed to adequately evaluate the plaintiff’s claim, failed to advise the insurer to settle and failed to sufficiently monitor the case as it went forward.
The doctor seeks compensatory damages and other equitable relief in the case.