Poorly Drafted Documents
Jake, a successful older building contractor, dreams of becoming a developer. He trusts his old-line big-firm lawyer to guide him through his first huge development deal. Development partners are treacherous. Jake’s lawyer drafts the development documents for the deal. The documents give Jake’s partners rights to the profits, but no obligation to share in the losses. Jake’s lawyer then represents Jake when his “partners” sue him. Jake gets clobbered at trial, because the court construes the poorly drafted documents against him.
Failure to Advise Client of Litigation Costs
Bradley, a young, brash entrepreneur, hires an old, large New England law firm to represent him in what becomes a hostile takeover of a public company. Bradley wins the takeover bid, and the law firm recommends that the company now controlled by Bradley sue the former officers and directors of the company for various business torts. He does. However, the law firm neglects to advise Bradley that, based upon the indemnification provisions in the corporate bylaws, he will have to pay all the defendants’ legal fees and expenses up front, and if he wins money damages, he has to, in effect, pay them to himself! Bradley hires CPK to bring claim against the law firm. This law firm had never paid on a legal malpractice claim in its 100 plus year history.
Failure to Present Proper Damages Case at Trial
Bert, an exclusive distributor of restaurant lamps, realizes that his lamp manufacturer has violated its exclusive distribution agreement with him. Bert complains to the distributor, which responds by terminating Bert’s distributorship. Bert hires a lawyer to sue the distributor. At trial, Bert’s lawyer fails to put on an adequate damages case, because the lawyer in fact failed to do adequate discovery of the manufacturer’s records. Bert hires CPK to bring a claim against the former lawyer for failure to adequately develop Bert’s damages case against the lamp manufacturer. CPK obtains the appropriate records from the manufacturer, files suit against Bert’s former lawyer, and at a pre-trial mediation, CPK obtains settlement in the incremental amount of what the original court would have awarded on the underlying claim if the case had been properly presented by Bert’s former lawyer.
Failure to Prevent Loss of Equitable Interest
Edna and Frank were dragged into a massive dispute regarding Frank’s father’s substantial real estate holdings. Frank’s father held bare legal title to Edna and Frank’s marital home. Frank’s father also held the title to a lot of other residential and commercial real estate. However, Frank and Edna held a significant equitable interest in their marital home, which they had lived in for many years. Frank’s father defaulted on a huge mortgage secured by all the property held in his name. The mortgage holder sued Frank’s father, so he conveyed all of his holdings to Frank and Edna. When the mortgage holder sued Frank and Edna alleging fraudulent conveyance, a lawyer hired by Frank and Edna recommended that they simply convey all the real estate back to Frank’s father, without advising them to take some steps to preserve their equitable interest in the marital home. This caused them to lose their equitable interest under the merger of title doctrine. They hired CPK to seek recovery against their lawyer, whose insurer after mediation, agreed to pay the amount proposed.
Attorney Theft of Escrow Account
David, a building contractor, sued his client, a real estate developer for breach of contract. The developer put a significant amount of money into an interest bearing joint escrow account in lieu of allowing David to attach the real estate of the development project. David’s lawyer and the developer’s lawyer acted as joint escrow agents. David’s lawyer stole all of the escrowed funds, a little at a time over two years. When this came to light, David’s lawyer was eventually disbarred and indicted on multiple counts, and he had no malpractice insurance or assets. David hired CPK, who, after negotiating an alliance between the developer and David, sued the developer’s lawyer for his failure to take reasonable steps, such as occasionally checking the bank statements, which would have made it impossible, or at least much more difficult, for David’s lawyer to steal the money. Counsel for the developer’s lawyer argued that his client was not responsible for the criminal acts of another.
Failure to Give Notice: Purchase Agreement
Grace, a biochemist, sold her Boston top-floor condominium unit to K. for $170,000. However, K. stated that all he really wanted was the right to own Grace’s roof (he owned the adjacent unit and wanted a double-sized rooftop deck), so he gave Grace an option to re-purchase the unit, and leased it back to her for a three-year term. Upon the expiration of the lease, Grace could have exercised her option rights by a) buying back the unit for the same $170,000 K. had paid her, or b) requiring K. to pay her the difference between $170,000 and fair market value. Near the expiration of the lease, Grace decided to exercise her option rights, and instructed her attorney, who had helped negotiate all the documents, to properly notify K. Proper notice required a letter to K. accompanied by a signed purchase and sale agreement by a certain date. Grace’s lawyer served only an unsigned copy of the purchase and sale agreement within the deadline, so K. refused to honor the option, and Grace had to sue him. That litigation, handled by Grace’s first lawyer, was going badly. Grace hired CPK and within six months he had convinced the malpractice carrier for Grace’s lawyer to pay her the demanded amount.
Failure to Give Notice: Product Liability
Rodney, a gas station attendant, was attempting to install a used 16 inch tire on his customer’s 16.5 inch rim, when the rim-tire exploded, nearly killing Rodney and leaving him with massive, catastrophic injuries. The facts of Rodney’s case presented a good case of liability against the wheel and rim manufacturers, and Rodney hired an attorney to pursue his personal injury claims on product liability theories. Unfortunately, the attorney failed to follow certain requirements common to product liability claims, in that, despite the fact that he got the case three months after the accident, he failed to put the tire and rim manufacturer defendants on notice until 38 months after the accident. Eventually, the defendants were awarded summary judgment against Rodney because Rodney’s attorney had prejudiced their ability to defend the case by failing to give them fair notice. Rodney’s lawyer appealed, and the appellate court, expressly holding Rodney’s lawyer accountable, upheld the lower court decision.
Rodney hired CPK to recover compensation from his former lawyer. The case was rendered extremely difficult by the fact that Rodney’s former lawyer had failed in his Requirement to Report Negligence to his insurer, even after he was criticized by the court for mishandling Rodney’s case. Thus, the former lawyer’s malpractice insurer was confident, and quite adamant, that it was not technically obligated to defend or pay on the potential claim against Rodney’s former lawyer. If Rodney’s malpractice case had gone to trial, Rodney would have recovered a very large but uncollectable verdict, since the lawyer was threatening to file bankruptcy.