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Legal Malpractice By Neglect

A trial last week was a great example of a common malpractice scenario: simple neglect of the file. A jury rendered a $338,000.00 verdict against a lawyer that simply refused to prosecute a worker’s compensation claim. According to an article discussing the case, the lawyer was hired, but the case was dismissed for failure to prosecute and then the lawyer didn’t timely file a motion to reinstate the case.

During the legal malpractice case, the plaintiff obtained a summary judgment on negligence, and the only question at the trial was the damages. To find this, the jury was asked to determine the extent of the man’s disability, which would set the value of the claim.

It’s not uncommon to find cases where attorneys simply fail to prosecute the claims. We’ve seen several different reasons for this (from simple mistake to lawyer’s depression and disability), but a prevalent theme is the selection of the case. In many neglect cases, the attorney has taken a case that he or she just doesn’t want to work on. The case may be outside the attorney’s expertise; the client may be difficult to deal with; or the attorney may have made an initial error about the value of the case. Whatever the reason, many of these cases could be avoided by the attorney making better choices up front about case selection.


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