Jury verdicts in the Legal Malpractice field are rare. Most cases are settled, and the balance are disposed of in motion practice. We are proud to share a New York Law Journal news article with you about this Legal Malpractice Jury Verdict from Supreme Court, Westchester County.
“A jury awarded nearly $400,000 to a Westchester County municipality that claimed its counsel for a group of civil rights cases incorrectly advised that the city would not have to pay the plaintiffs’ legal fees.
In 2004, White Plains police officers arrested three people after they asked why their friend was getting arrested. After the three were cleared of resisting arrest and obstruction charges, they sued the city in federal court, alleging false arrest and malicious prosecution
Joseph Maria, a White Plains lawyer representing the city, offered $10,000 to each plaintiff to settle the case. But the city alleged Maria made a “crucial mistake” by failing to state that the award was intended to cover all costs, including attorney fees.
The plaintiffs accepted, and Southern District Judge Robert Patterson awarded nearly $291,000 in attorney fees. After the city lost its appeal in 2012, Patterson awarded the plaintiffs’ lawyers an additional $106,000 in fees.
In 2014, the city of White Plains sued Maria and his firm, Joseph A. Maria PC. Westchester County Judge David Everett granted White Plains’ partial motion for summary judgment that the defendants were negligent when they departed from the “good and accepted” practice of law.
From there, White Plains moved to prove the “case within the case,” or that it would have won the underlying case if not for Maria’s negligence, and a jury trial was held earlier this month before Westchester state Supreme Justice Lewis Lubell.
Andrew Lavoott Bluestone, who represented the city of White Plains, said the jury found the officers would have had probable cause to arrest the three plaintiffs.
Neither Maria nor Steven Coploff, of counsel to Steinberg & Cavaliere and Maria’s attorney in the malpractice action, returned calls requesting comment.