Rob Laney and Shivani Desai Win Defense Verdict in Legal Malpractice Case

March 27, 2015

RRD Partner Rob Laney and Associate Shivani Desai won a defense verdict for the firm’s clients, a local lawyer and his law firm, after a nine-day jury trial.  The suit arose out of the client's work as the executor for the $3 million estate of a decedent who also named him as the attorney for the estate.  Despite successfully probating the estate such that it did not pay any federal or state estate taxes, the decedent’s sole beneficiary, her daughter, disputed the amount of the fees that the firm’s client charged and raised numerous claims against him, including legal malpractice, breach of fiduciary duty, conversion, civil theft, breach of contract, recklessness and violations of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA).

The court granted RRD’s motion to strike the conversion, civil theft and breach of contract claims and entered judgment on them approximately one year before trial.  During the trial, Rob and Shivani were able to get the plaintiff’s standard of care expert to admit that his opinions were premised on assuming as true all of the plaintiff’s allegations, and that he did not have any actual knowledge of any breaches of fiduciary duty or malpractice.  The plaintiff sought to cure that deficiency by calling several witnesses and presenting more than five dozen exhibits which she claimed proved that the defendant engaged in fraud and self-dealing, as well as establishing that he violated the fiduciary duties of diligence and loyalty. 

At the end of the trial, the court directed a verdict for the defendants on the CUTPA count, finding that the plaintiff had failed to produce sufficient evidence to allow that claim to be considered by the jury.  The jury then deliberated for two days before returning a defense verdict on the malpractice, breach of fiduciary duty and recklessness counts.  The jury specifically found that the plaintiff failed to prove any of her allegations of wrongdoing.

During the trial, the plaintiff turned down an offer of more than $300,000 to settle the case.  In closing arguments, she asked the jury to return a verdict of $1.3 million.  With the defense verdict, the plaintiff is now responsible for some of the defense’s trial costs.