Man Sues Former Lawyers After Losing Car Accident Lawsuit
In a recent decision, a man involved in a car accident sued his lawyers after he lost his case against one of the drivers.
In 2001, the plaintiff was involved in a three-vehicle motor vehicle accident. He brought a claim against the drivers of the other two vehicles.
One of the drivers settled her action with the plaintiff.
After the settlement with the first driver, the plaintiff and his lawyer’s firm terminated their relationship. The plaintiff then hired a second firm to represent him; however, that relationship was terminated prior to trial.
The trial to determine the other driver’s liability occurred in 2010. The plaintiff represented himself. The plaintiff was unsuccessful at trial and blamed his former lawyers and their law firms, saying their negligence caused his loss.
Consequently, the plaintiff sued his former lawyers for negligence and breach of contract. He also claimed the lawyers’ firms were vicariously liable for the acts and omissions of their lawyers.
The court began by explaining that lawyers owe a duty of care to their clients. As professionals, lawyers are expected to provide a certain standard of care.
Citing previous case law, the court further explained that a lawyer’s duties to a client and the standard of care that must be met are set by contract, tort, and fiduciary law. The court set out the following principles:
- A lawyer is required to bring reasonable care, skill, and knowledge to the performance of the professional services that the lawyer has undertaken for the client.
- The standard of care is that of the reasonably or ordinarily competent or prudent lawyer.
- As for knowledge, a lawyer should know the elementary or fundamental principles of the area in which he or she is providing services, should be able to recognize topics requiring further legal research, and should be able to ascertain the applicable legal rules.
- As for care, a lawyer should advise clients of options for dealing with legal issues and should advise clients of the strengths and weaknesses of those options.
- Finally, a lawyer has an obligation to make sufficient inquiries with the client so that the lawyer can provide informed advice.
Applying these principles to the facts of the case, the court concluded that the plaintiff had established on a balance of probabilities that his lawyers had breached their professional duties to him.
However, the court also found that the plaintiff had not established that he would have had a real possibility or chance of success at trial but for the breaches of duty.
As a result, the court awarded the plaintiff nominal damages of $1,000.
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