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When bad legal advice becomes malpractice

On Behalf of | Mar 8, 2023 | Legal Malpractice

An attorney’s advice to clients is typically based on their experience and knowledge of the relevant law. If your lawyer is unfamiliar with what the law says about a particular aspect of your problem, they will research the applicable statute, case law, regulation and/or common law. You rely on your attorney’s advice and trust that it is accurate and in your best interests to the best of the attorney’s ability.

Hopefully, following your attorney’s advice resolves your issue. But it does not always work that way. Attorneys are human and occasionally make mistakes. But errors that violate your rights as a client, sabotage your case or cost you money can go beyond honest mistakes into legal malpractice. And that is inexcusable.

Failing to disclose all the information you need to know to do what is best for you as an individual or business is a common form of malpractice. This is what an Iowa nursing home company called ABCM Corp. alleges in its legal malpractice lawsuit against the law firm it hired to defend it in three personal injury lawsuits related to a 2014 truck accident.

No ‘strategic settlement approach’?

According to a news report about the suit, ABCM entered into mediation with the three plaintiffs to settle the litigation. The company settled two of the claims in mediation, while the third case was settled later. ABCM now says it could have settled all three claims for significantly less money had the law firm disclosed key facts and employed a “strategic settlement approach.”

The malpractice suit alleges that the company’s attorneys should have advised it to settle the third case first. It appears that case involved the most severe injuries and damages to the plaintiff. Had ABCM settled that case first, it claims, its insurance coverage would have been depleted enough that the remaining plaintiffs’ own coverage would have kicked in. Had the law firm advised ABCM that this was an option, it would have given them more financial incentive to settle their suits, saving ABCM money overall, the lawsuit alleges.

Instead, ABCM used its entire $1 million in liability coverage to settle the less serious personal injury claims, then paid out of pocket for the cost of settling the remaining case. ABCM also says the amount it settled that claim for was “unreasonable.

Legal malpractice or not?

The line between an unavoidable or irrelevant mistake and negligent malpractice is not always clear. A conversation with a legal malpractice lawyer can help clarify things for you.