Wednesday, January 2, 2013

An Unscheduled Landing Leads To A Legal Malpractice Claim

A client who had retained an attorney to pursue claims that arose when an airplane crashed into her home while she was home watching television sued that attorney for legal malpractice.

The plane sliced through the plaintiff's chimney but no debris struck her and she suffered no physical injury.

The malpractice suit alleged that an action was not filed by the retained attorney before the statute of limitations had run. The client won a $5 million judgment at trial but a large portion of the damage award was vacated on appeal.

On further appeal, the Kentucky Supreme Court reversed and remanded for furrther proceedings.

The court made three holdings in the case.

First, it reaffirmed that the proper method of trying a legal malpractice case is the "suit within a suit" approach. Second, on an emotional distress claim, the court held that a plaintiff must "first satisfy the elements of a general negligence claim." Then, the plaintiff must prove through expert or scientific proof that "the claimed emotional injury is severe or serious." Third, the court held that the lost punitive damages in the underlying case are not recoverable against the negligent lawyer. (Mike Frisch)

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