There is a well settled general rule that permits a client to sue their lawyer for an inadequate settlement when it is claimed that the settlement "was effectively compelled by the mistakes of counsel". Under these circumstances it can be argued that the attorney was more interested in making a quick buck to avoid a lengthy litigation and the risk of losing at trial.
The client, Angeles, retained the attorney, Aronsky, to sue the landlord of his apartment building after he was assaulted in the lobby by three unknown intruders seen leaving the building carrying baseball bats. It was claimed that these intruders gianed access to the building through an unsecured side entrance. Angeles had both his arms broken, suffered a fractured jaw and fractured ribs. Angeles, a waiter with a sixth grade education and no legal experience, retained Aronsky to evaluate his claim and provide advice on his claim against the landlord for failing to adequately secure the premises.
Before filing suit and without conducting a site investigation or interview of the superintendent and after having briefly met with his client one time, Aronsky conveyed a settlement offer of $8,500 and told his client Angeles that it was "a difficult liability case". Aronsky correctly noted that he was legally obliged to convey the settlement offer and that the client voluntarily signed off on the settlement. Though attorney Aronsky conceded it was a low settlement, he contended that the client was now second guessing his proper exercise of professional judgment. A mere error in judgment is not actionable provided the attorney chose one reasonable course of action amongst other reasonable alternatives. But on a pre-trial motion for summary judgment, the Court found that there were issues of fact requiring a jury trial. The attorney argued that indeed this would have been a difficult case to prove because there were no prior similar incidents at the building and no proof that entry was made through an unsecured door. The Court still held that there was an issue of fact for a jury trial on whether the attorney adequately informed himself and his client of the available facts prior to settlement.
Based on these factual issues it was held that the client's legal malpractice case should not be dismissed despite his having agreed to the settlement. A jury trial will be held and that jury will decide whether: 1) the attorney was adequately informed about the facts and circumstances surrounding the assault; 2) the client was properly informed of the risks and benefits of the $8,500 settlement; 3) "but for" the negligence of the attorney the client would have prevailed in his claim against the landlord and recovered more than $8,500 pre-suit settlement. Angeles v. Aronsky, 2013 N.Y. Slip Op. 02454