Lawyers are professionals and are held to a certain standard of care by the law due to the delicate nature of their work. A lawyer is not required to win every case he or she takes – such a standard would be impractical and impossible to maintain. However, a lawyer must advocate to the best of his or her ability for a client at all times. This includes a myriad functions such as filing documents, arguing before judges and tribunals and negotiating on behalf of clients. If a lawyer fails to live up to a client’s expectations of professionalism and conduct, that client may file suit for malpractice.
To be successful in such a suit the client must prove that the lawyer’s conduct breached the standard of care for an attorney practicing within the jurisdiction. Once malpractice has been alleged and proven, it falls to the attorney to prove that even if he or she had been operating under the standard of care, the client would have lost his or her case. This second burden ensures that clients only collect when they suffer an actual loss.
In Semmes v. Klein, a legal malpractice case originating in St. Tammany Parish, Mr. Klein, the attorney, originally filed a suit on behalf of the wrong person. He realized this error and partially corrected it by withdrawing that suit. However, Mr. Klein failed to file a new suit on behalf of the correct party. Mr. Klein was fortunate because the potential plaintiffs in this case no longer possessed the legal interests that they thought they did by the time the case would have begun.
The facts of this case are confusing at best as they involve corporations and individuals comingling in all manner of contracts and deals. No party in this matter can be held truly blameless because all had a part in gumming up the legal framework in which they were all operating. Due to this confusing legal climate, the trial court did not render a verdict entirely favorable to either party. The trial court dismissed the malpractice claims of the plaintiffs at the defendant’s cost and both parties appealed. On appeal, the trial court’s decision was affirmed.
As professionals must be held accountable for their actions, attorneys are no different and are meant to act on behalf of their clients. This case showcased the type of situation that can arise when an attorney fails to do his or her due diligence. Through a full disclosure of information it could be found that the true interests of the clients may not have been upheld by the attorney in question. In this case, according to the filing of misconduct, Mr. Klein failed to make even the slightest inquiry into the situation in which he was becoming involved. As a result, his clients continued to operate under false assumptions until it was too late.
This case highlights the complexities of insurance litigation, as well. The owner of a particular piece of real property (real estate) insured the property. Then the owner gave the rights to collect the insurance proceeds to a separate entity. After Hurricane Katrina hit, the property was damaged and had to be repaired. Who would do the repairs? Who would actually collect the insurance payouts? Apparently, the answers to these questions were not the same. Enter Mr. Klein. According to his former clients, Klein made the situation worse by failing to behave according to the requisite standard of care. For this, his clients alleged to have suffered a bit of hardship and, in the end, was held accountable in the amount of their legal fees for the malpractice suit against him.
This case demonstrates not only the rules upon attorneys but also the need for clients to hire carefully. By being selective in who represents your case, you prevent not only having your case go poorly but also having to resort to such measures as suing your legal representative.
To get in touch with attorneys that will always zealously advocate for you, call the Berniard Law Firm toll-free at 1-866-574-8005.