One of the things that makes the practice of law interesting and complicated is the fact that it is always evolving. Lawmakers are constantly passing new laws and courts continually provide holdings that impact other cases. It is important for legal counsel to stay up to date on these changes in order for attorneys to provide competent representation.
A recent example of how this can go wrong involves massive, global corporations that took on their law firm because they stated their legal counsel failed to apply a recent United States Supreme Court holding that could have impacted their case. A holding by the Supreme Court on an issue that relates to your case will generally impact the case regardless of where you are located in the country.
What Supreme Court case was involved?
In this case, a Supreme Court holding appeared to open up a new avenue for the client to get the allegations dismissed. The new avenue involved personal jurisdiction. This basically refers to the court’s ability to hear the case. If the court lacks personal jurisdiction over the parties, the case cannot move forward in that court.
What did this mean for the case?
In Sonic Finance Inc. Pasha Finance Inc. v. Blank Rome, Blank Rome, the law firm, argues it was waiting to assert the personal jurisdiction defense at a later time. When they finally asserted the defense, years later, the court stated it was too late and would not consider the defense.
The plaintiffs argue that had the lawyer brought this defense in a timely manner, the case would have not moved forward, and they would be off the hook for the resulting $4.5 million settlement.
Will the courts agree with the client’s argument?
As we have discussed before, malpractice cases are cases within a case where the client needs to show not only that their legal counsel failed to provide competent representation but that with better representation, they would have won their case. This particular case has only passed the first hurdle.
Although not yet resolved, it provides an important reminder of the need for legal counsel to stay current. Those who believe a failure of their legal counsel to remain current negatively impacted their case may have a valid malpractice claim.