Defense Verdict in a Legal Malpractice Case with $2M Demand
Our client was a lawyer whose former client obtained a building permit to expand his beach house. When the construction was almost complete, the town issued a stop work order on the basis that the construction did not conform to the plans filed with the town. Our client determined that someone employed by the town had altered the plans. Our client filed an answer and counterclaim. Although our client was successful in obtaining an order allowing the plaintiffs to complete construction, several causes of action in the counterclaim were dismissed because our client did not comply with the notice provisions of the Tort Claims Act and the statute of limitations. These dismissals were sustained by the Appellate Court, with one exception, which was remanded for trial. Our client did not represent the plaintiffs on the remand because they had not paid him. Other counsel tried the case for three weeks and then settled while the jury was deliberating. The plaintiffs then sued our client, arguing that the case would have been worth more if the barred claims were still in the case. This malpractice case was tried over 13 days. The jury found that our client deviated from accepted standards of practice, but that the deviations did not proximately cause the plaintiffs to suffer any damages. The demand at the start of trial was $2 million. The plaintiffs rejected an offer of $425,000.