• August 16, 2012

Legal malpractice claims are some of the most difficult lawsuits to bring.  The cynical explanation is that it is, in a sense, a form of self-regulation, where lawyers sit in judgment of lawyers (construing legislation drafted by lawyers, for the most part).

Less cynically, lay people probably do not fully appreciate that there are an enormous number of variables in even the simplest legal matters so that it may be hard or even impossible to trace a bad result to one lapse, one strategic error, or one identifiable act (or failure to act) by the lawyer(s) as “causing” a bad result.

So, for example, a lawyer’s inexperience with a particular kind of lawsuit, his inexperience with litigation, generally, a foregone (possible) opportunity for a cheap settlement, a relatively enormous adverse jury verdict, and the collapse of a large successful business are not enough.  

On appeal of the dismissal of a South Dakota legal malpractice claim, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, in an opinion authored by Judge Bobby Shepherd, held, in essence, that attorney Jeffrey Hurd and his law firm Bangs, McCullen, Butler, Foye & Simmons, L.L.P. were not legally responsible for Plaintiff Douglas Hamilton’s legal woes.  Rather, it seems the Court concluded that Hamilton himself should own it.

Hamilton received public attention for his own actions, actions which he had taken prior to being represented by counsel and which were the basis of the sexual harassment lawsuit.

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