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Supreme Court Reinstates Malpractice Verdict


The Nebraska Supreme Court reinstated a Domina Law Group pc llo clients’ $1.6 million jury verdict, reversing a trial court’s decision to reduce the verdict by nearly 7/8.

The Supreme Court’s unanimous opinion held that Domina Law Group pc llo clients Richard Bellino and his company proved that legal malpractice was committed by an Omaha law firm, and two of its lawyers, when they advised the client to violate fiduciary duties owed to a fellow owner of a closely held corporation.

In 2005, a Douglas County jury returned a $1.6 million verdict, finding malpractice and fixing the amount of damages at the difference between the sums the client actually expended and a settlement proposal made by his adversary. The trial court took most of the verdict away at a post-trial ruling, holding that the Domina Law Group pc llo client was required to buy his partner out, so the damages found by the jury were improper.

The Nebraska Supreme Court pointedly disagreed. The Supreme Court’s focused opinion observed that:

1. The law firm’s original advice about the right of a corporate officer or director to compete against its own company was incorrect.

2. The law firm’s advice about the likelihood for success on appeal was incorrect.

3. It was “inevitable” that a court would rule against Mr. Bellino because the law firm’s advice was incorrect.

4. Competent evidence supported Mr. Bellino’s judgment.

Reinstatement of jury verdicts, after reduction by a trial court, is a rare phenomenon.

“The Nebraska Court of Appeals reinstated a verdict against an insurance company in 2004,” David Domina said. “But it happens rarely, and, in this case, the Supreme Court was obviously focused on both the abundant proof of professional negligence, and the equally clear proof of damages.”

The Nebraska Supreme Court’s decision, issued August 17, 2007, “finally closes out a seven-year battle for our client.” He wanted out of business with his partner years ago, and now, with payment of the judgment, the aftermath of a tragic advice about how to do so finally comes to a close.

August, 2007

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.

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