by Brian Mahany
Jackie’s lawyers settled an employment discrimination suit against Bell South for $5000 in 1997. Twelve years later Jackie would recover millions of dollars – against her lawyers for mishandling her case.
We generally blog to share important legal developments and helpful tips with our clients and the community. Today’s blog is a tragic story but with a happy ending. The material for today’s blog is courtesy of Michael Fox.
Clients rely on the advice of their lawyer when considering whether to settle or bring a case. “What is my case worth?” is a question we hear daily. There are no magic answers to that question. Sometimes lawyers have to tell clients that they have no case whatsoever. Lawyers are expected to use their experience and best judgment to honestly advise their clients. The key word is “honestly.”
Jackie’s first lawyers failed the honesty test. Miserably. According to Fox, her lawyers from Ruden McCloskey failed to disclose that although they settled her case for $5000, they entered in a four year consulting agreement worth $480,000 with Bell South. Plus they agreed not to file more cases against Bell South.
See a conflict here? Sell out your client for a mere $5000 while collecting 100 times that amount from the very defendant who injured your client. That case ended in a multi-million dollar legal malpractice verdict against her first lawyers in 2002. But the story doesn’t end there.
Jackie’s new lawyers, Becker & Poliakoff, sued Bell South because Jackie felt she was the victim of continued discrimination. Unlike the first lawyers who failed to disclose a conflict of interest, Becker & Poliakoff apparently missed a filing deadline and the new suit was dismissed. Jackie claims that Becker & Poliakoff then concealed the dismissal for a year.
Jackie next sued Becker & Poliakoff for their malpractice – missing a court deadline and allowing her case to be dismissed.
Jackie just won a $4.9 million dollar against her lawyers in her second legal malpractice case.
I have never heard of such facts before but justice usually prevails – IF you seek competent counsel and pursue dishonest or negligent lawyers for their mistakes.
Thankfully, most lawyers are honest. They do not cover up mistakes and they don’t attempt to sell out their clients to the highest bidder. Unfortunately, there are some dishonest lawyers out there. More often, malpractice actions simply involve a lawyer who made a costly mistake. Whether by fraud or neglect or dishonesty, if the lawyers’ actions hurt the client, potential legal malpractice exists.
The other lesson in this story is to make sure that you always hire the right lawyer for the job. No lawyer can do everything. Make sure your lawyer concentrates on or has experience with your type of case.
The lawyers at MahanyLaw primarily concentrate in whistleblower law, fraud recovery and legal malpractice.
If you think you may have been hurt by the actions of a dishonest or negligent lawyer, call us immediately for a free consultation. We consider cases nationwide.