Legal Malpractice – Suing Your Ex-Lawyer

Even though your case did not turn out the way you hoped, most of the time, it is not your lawyer’s fault.

But sometimes it is.

In New Jersey, an attorney will be liable to a former client if the attorney fails to meet the “standard of care” and as a result, the client is damaged.

In performing legal services, an attorney must exercise the care, skill, and diligence that are commonly exercised by other attorneys representing clients in similar matters.  If the attorney does so, the attorney meets the standard of care.

The attorney most often fails to meet the standard of care in dealing with the technical or procedural components involved in the services being rendered to the client.

Technical and procedural components include such things as recording documents, providing notice, drafting deeds and mortgages, filing a lawsuit within the filing-deadline set by a statute, drafting wills and other estate documents that accurately reflect the client’s intention, obtaining expert witness reports on the pertinent issues of the case being litigated, following a client’s instructions regarding a transaction or a lawsuit, providing tax advice to a client involved in a transaction or an estate administration, meeting all the requirements of proceeding with a lawsuit, informing a client of a settlement offer or other pertinent information needed for the client to make a decision as to how to proceed, advising a client of potential adverse consequences of a client’s decision and other similar events.

Take a look at our blog article titled “Real Life Legal Malpractice Cases,” for more detailed examples of cases.

One of the key elements of a legal malpractice case is that the person suing the lawyer must prove there is “an attorney-client relationship.”  This means that the person and the lawyer agreed that the lawyer would provide legal services to the person.

Sometimes, however, a person is harmed by a lawyer’s actions or inactions, but the person is not a client of the lawyer.   Courts have ruled that where an attorney provides information or takes on a responsibility that the attorney knows is not just for the client, but is also relied upon by other people, those other people can sue the lawyer if the information turns out to be unreliable or if the attorney fails to fulfill the responsibility undertaken.

Courts have ruled that an attorney who provided inaccurate information in a bid package could be held liable to a contractor who relied on that information and suffered harm because the information was inaccurate.  Courts have also ruled that where a lawyer represents a person selling property and agrees to record the deed from the client (seller) to the buyer, and then fails to record the deed, the lawyer could be responsible for damages caused to the buyer even though the buyer was not the lawyer’s client.

Look for other blog posts on the topics of Discovery, Expert Witnesses, Mediation, Non-Binding Arbitration and the Trial.

This article is intended as general information and not as legal advice.  If you are considering starting a lawsuit, contact an attorney at Maselli Warren, P.C. to schedule a consultation.