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Legal Malpractice Not Sufficient Basis to Be Relieved From Bad Decision

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The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals [Federal] has recently affirmed a lower court’s determination that if a client settles a case based on erroneous legal advice the settlement will still stand. The client may be able to sue the lawyer for malpractice, but the settlement will be enforced.

A client alleged that the was given bad advice by her lawyer, and even deceived by her lawyer. She found this out after she settled her case for far less than she believed it was worth. When she found out that her lawyers had given her bad advice, and that what they told her was not true, she tried to set aside the settlement. The Court refused.

The Court held that: “parties should be bound by and accountable for the deliberate actions of themselves and their chosen counsel. This includes not only an innocent, albeit careless or negligent attorney mistake, but also intentional attorney misconduct.” Malpractice claims are the proper vehicle for addressing attorney misconduct, the judge added, emphasizing that a party would not be released from a poor litigation decision even when it resulted from inaccurate information his or her attorney provided.

The case is Latshaw v. Trainer Wortham & Company, 03-57230