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Large Legal Malpractice Verdict Award Reversed

$250K legal malpractice verdict reveresed for a woman who wasn't a client Aug 14, 2014 by Martha Neil, originally viewed at the California Legal Malpractice

An appellate court has reversed a legal malpractice jury verdict of nearly $250,000 against attorney Nigel L. Scott and the Yallery and Scott Law Firm by a woman who was not a client of the firm.

Janice Burgin had claimed that she was entitled to the award because the firm had failed to help her now-deceased longtime boyfriend obtain a timely divorce before his death. Had there been no delay, she could have married him and received his pension benefits after his demise, she argued. However, as a matter of law, there was no privity of contract between Burgin and the defendant attorney and his firm, so the jury verdict had to be reversed, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals ruled in its Thursday opinion (PDF).

The court also said allowing Burgin to sue Scott and his firm for malpractice would interfere with the attorney-client relationship between the defendants and Burgin's boyfriend, onetime U.S. Postal Service worker Kenneth Woodruff.

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