$1.6 Million Verdict, Legal Malpractice

$1.6 Million Verdict, Legal Malpractice

The Omaha World Herald describes it as a historical victory. The $1.6 million jury verdict returned in late 2005, by a Douglas County, Nebraska Jury for a Domina Law Group pc llo client in Omaha sets the new standard. On what the referring lawyer believed to be the eve of the running of the statute of limitations, David Domina was asked to evaluate the client's case for possible legal malpractice. The client came to Domina's office with boxes of material; the data was sifted throughout the night, and a Complaint and Praecipe for Summonses were prepared by morning.

The Complaint was not amended until attorneys Domina and Claudia Stringfield-Johnson chose to amend it by eliminating a small portion of their client's claim. This paring was done "to assure focus on the core issue," Stringfield-Johnson said.

The Defendants, partners from one of Nebraska's largest, best-known law firms, and their firm, made one settlement offer-$75,000.00. The offer sparked no discussion. Instead, the case proceeded to trial.

Domina and Stringfield-Johnson presented two strong expert witnesses. "One of our witnesses, a thoughtful, thorough Western Nebraska lawyer, patiently explained the standard of care, a lawyer's duty, and compared both requirements to Defendants' performance. His description was calm, professional, and effective."

The second witness, a long-time Michigan law professor and practitioner from Ann Arbor, told the jury Defendants failed to analyze governing case law, inform their client of the rule, and direct him on a correct path. Instead, they choose to give him advice that was "virtually certain" to result in suit for breach of fiduciary duties to a closely held corporation, and produce a stinging loss for him in court.

The client followed the advice. As a result, he was sued, lost his case, and had to pay his business partner a large sum of money.

The malpractice case was filed after the original dispute between business partners worked its way through the Court system. The Defendants in the malpractice case continued their representation of the client throughout such process.

Domina's opening statement to the jury started with a quotation from the governing 1913 Nebraska Supreme Court opinion providing a clear rule contrary to the advice the lawyers gave Domina's client. The case ended, after testimony from more than a half-dozen lawyer witnesses, with Domina's closing and rebuttal arguments delivered in quiet conversational style from a folding chair in front of the jury rail.

"Our client is thrilled to be vindicated from findings he breached his fiduciary duties. It was important for him to know the public has a chance to learn the acts found to have been improper were precisely those his lawyers counseled him to take," Domina said. Stringfield-Johnson added, "Focus on the standard of care for lawyers to meet, and how to meet it, is helpful, and important. The Defendant lawyers spent too little time focused on the basic elements of their service."

November 07, 2005
David A. Domina

Domina Law Group pc llo is a firm of trial lawyers. We specialize in complex litigation on a national basis. Our lawyers are ethical, aggressive, and committed to providing spirit and vitality to the judicial system and our client’s legal rights.