March 27, 2007
Suit Against Expert Witness Backfires
The Lawyers' Manual on Professional Conduct reports a decision of the Montana Supreme Court affirming an $11 million judgment against the law firm of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher. The plaintiff was the preeminent expert on the work of an artist who was his grandfather. The grandfather was a contemporary of C. M. Russell. After opining that a painting was the work of his grandfather rather than Russell, the firm threatened to file suit unless he signed a letter, drafted by the firm, retracting the opinion. Suit was filed, and thereafter dismissed, when the letter failed to produce the desired result. The expert then sued the firm for malicious prosecution and abuse of process.
The jury found for the plaintiff/expert and awarded both compensatory and punitive damages. On appeal, the court affirned the award, finding that the firm's conduct justified the substantial punitive damages. (Mike Frisch)
There appears to be a problem with the link to the Montana Supreme Court web site. The case is Seltzer v. Morton, No. 05-378 (Mar. 12, 2007)
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