Two recent cases illustrate one of the central problems with legal malpractice cases, they frequently just will not end. In the case of In re: CANOE MANUFACTURING CO., INC., Chapter 7, Debtor, one of the owners of Canoe attempted to reopen a closed Chapter 7 bankruptcy in order to bring an action against the lawyer who had represented the corporation in the bankruptcy. The Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania noted the owner did not have the ability to bring this action, as a corporation in bankruptcy can only act through counsel. However, the court also noted the original bankruptcy petition was filed in 1987. The court noted the owner had information regarding the claim against the attorney, and was making arguments about his attorney’s alleged failures as early as 1990. The opinion exhaustively lists the various claims made by the owner since that point, a number of which were appealed to the highest levels. Although the court refused to reopen the bankruptcy proceedings, given the twenty-five year litigation history, it seems unlikely that this matter will end soon.
Last week, in In re Fagel, the court of appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued an opinion with respect to arguments over the proper amount of damages from a legal malpractice action which involved an underlying litigation from 1993. Another case with a nearly twenty year litigation history.
These cases emphasize the importance of legal malpractice avoidance. Avoiding professional liability litigation can prevent litigation that will often run on for years.