July 2, 2008
Malpractice Verdict Overturned
A client hired a lawyer to pursue a slip-and-fall case against a grocery store. The client had slipped on shampoo. She sued the lawyer for malpractice after the underlying case was dismissed and won a $212,000 damage award. The Court of Appeals for the State of Washington reversed and remanded the case with a direction to dismiss.
The client met the lawyer through her fiance, an attorney in the lawyer's office. She took a job as a receptionist in the lawyer's firm. Things did not proceed well:
Schmidt presented evidence that Coogan failed to investigate and prepare her case. In
addition, when she asked him about the case, Coogan responded with profanity, telling Schmidt not to worry about it, that he was the lawyer, and that he had it under control. On the last day to file the complaint within the statute of limitations, Coogan still had not filed. After talking with Coogan, MacMonagle [the fiance] drafted the complaint and filed it over Coogan's signature.
The complaint, however, named the wrong party as owner of the store. Coogan attempted to amend the complaint and name the proper party, but for reasons not clear from the record, the attempt failed and the claim was ultimately dismissed.
Notwithstanding the above, the malpractice claim failed because there was no evidence the store was aware of the shampoo on the floor prior to the accident. (Mike Frisch)
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