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Suit alleges reality show distraction led to legal malpractice

What court should have jurisdiction? That's a question that often gets raised whenever legal action is undertaken. It happens in Ohio criminal courts. And as a story recently reported out of Philadelphia reflects, it can also happen within the civil courts.

At the heart of the legal malpractice case is the claim that a personal injury attorney abandoned two clients after opting to become a contestant on the reality TV show, The Bachelorette. 

When he stepped away from the injury suit case for the show, the firm named another attorney to take it on. But according to the suit, the new attorney wasn't prepared and the injury suit ended getting tossed out of court. The malpractice suit accuses the defendants of professional negligence, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty.

One twist in the case is that the malpractice suit was initiated in bankruptcy court by a bankruptcy trustee on behalf of the personal injury clients. And that has become a point of legal contention.

The defendant attorney recently petitioned a federal court seeking to have the whole matter moved out of the jurisdiction of the bankruptcy court. The argument presented was that the malpractice claim isn't core to the bankruptcy and that by letting it proceed as part of the bankruptcy would eventually amount to double work for the courts.

A U.S. district court judge granted the request and in subsequent action, the bankruptcy trustee also consented to having the matter removed from bankruptcy court jurisdiction. An attorney for the trustee says he accepted the proposition in part because he would prefer to have the malpractice suit presented to a jury.

Based on the action taken, that appears to be the direction the case will now go.

Source: The Legal Intelligencer, "'Bachelorette' Lawyer Wants Legal Mal Case Out of Bankruptcy Court," Zack Needles, April 8, 2014

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