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Despite jury decisions, legal malpractice case is not over

Juries are not god. But it is possible for a jury to giveth and for the same jury to taketh away.

That at least is the current standing of things in connection with a legal malpractice case. The matter isn't playing out in Ohio, but the nature of the case is such that it could and so readers may well find it of interest.

The dispute pits a technology company against a Houston-based law firm. The claim is that the law firm was negligent in failing to reveal to the client company that it was also representing a competing company 10 years ago when both companies were seeking patents for similar products. The allegation was that it represented an undisclosed conflict of interest and that the firm was guilty of breaching fiduciary duty.

In 2010, the plaintiff company filed suit in the matter and earlier this month, the matter finally had its day in court. After a three-week trial, a jury ruled that the law firm had indeed acted with negligence and set the level of damages at more than $40 million. But seconds later, the jury announced that the plaintiff company had waited too long to seek remedy from the court.

State laws vary, as most readers are likely aware. In Texas, statutes of limitations for filing a negligence suit are set at two years, and the window for filing a breach of fiduciary duty claim is four years from when the damage was realized. Observers say that in reaching its mixed decision the jury effectively nullified the likelihood that the damages awarded will be paid.

Both sides are expected to appeal the findings.

What this case serves to show is that the pursuit of compensation for damages caused by legal malpractice can be a challenge. It clearly requires timely and skilled action by an experienced attorney.

Source: Houston Chronicle, "$40.5 million verdict fades quickly, to the relief of Baker Botts law firm," Natalie Posgate, The Texas Lawbook, May 17, 2014

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