This is a sad case of willful ignorance, passive-aggressive client behavior, and a refusal to acknowledge reality. Its a car accident turned legal malpractice case. Unusually, it is the defendant – client who is suing his insurance defense attorneys.
Driver had a 15/30 policy [as small as possible] and really injured the other driver. Insurance compnay put up its $ 15 and then over and over tried to warn plaintiff that his coverage was too small, and that he had to do something about the situation. He did not, and although he probably could have added a simple $ 1000 per month for 5 months, ended up with a judgment of $ 150,000 which he has to pay through salary garnishment.
Of interest are two discussions of the use of expert reports, here, of the attorney expert. Note: the term net opinion.
"In our review of Nathan’s two reports and Nathan’s deposition, we find no citation to professional standards or customs as reflected in defense lawyers’ journals or articles in support of his opinion that defendants committed legal malpractice. Additionally, Nathan references no judicial or statutory authority establishing the existence of a standard of care for defense attorneys, when the client’s monetary exposure over the policy limits places the client in jeopardy of a substantial excess verdict. Instead, other than a recitation of Nathan’s own personal opinion as to the standard of care based on his years of experience as a personal injury trial attorney, Nathan relies for his opinion on defense counsel’s alleged breach of Rules of Professional Conduct (RPCs) 1.4 (communication), 1.3 (diligence), and 1.1 (gross negligence) as support for his opinion. In Baxt v. Liloia, 155 N.J. 190, 197 (1998), the Court concluded that a violation of the RPCs alone does not give rise to a cause of action for legal malpractice. The reason is that the disciplinary codes were not designed to establish standards for civil liability. Id. at 201; see also Barsotti v. Merced, 346 N.J. Super. 504 (App. Div. 2002).
We are convinced that Judge Stroumtsos in his comprehensive and well reasoned written opinion correctly determined Trivedi’s legal malpractice expert’s testimony was inadmissible because his testimony constituted a net opinion. See Townsend, supra, 186 N.J. at 494. The court found the expert’s opinion was based on his personal beliefs and unsupported by any evidence demonstrating industry standards and customs. See Stoeckel, supra, 387 N.J. Super. at 14. The judge concluded that without an expert opinion establishing the standard of care required of a defense attorney in advising his/her client as to the client’s potential personal exposure in the event of a damages verdict in excess of the liability insurance policy limits, Trivedi’s claim for legal malpractice could not be proved and that defendants were entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Brill v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 142 N.J. 520, 523-24 (1995)."