Law Firm Charged With 13 Year Delay in Prosecuting Suit Denied Dismissal of Legal Malpractice Claim

 Last week the Appellate Division upheld a Suffolk County judge who refused to dismiss a legal malpractice claim. The plaintiff was injured when he fell while descending an allegedly defective ladder in 1989. In 1991 he hired the defendant law firm who then sued the ladder manufacturer. For the first eight months the case couldn't progress due to a bankruptcy filing by the ladder manufacturer, but the hope was that there would be a recovery from the liability insurance policy of the ladder manufacturer. In October 1991 the ladder manufacturer served interrogatories on the law firm representing plaintiff asking for details of the claims made. However, for the next 13 years the case sat without any real progress and when the law firm answered the interrogatories in 2004, the insurance company disclaimed coverage. Plaintiff then sued the law firm for legal malpractice in 2007. Since the ladder company was bankrupt and the law firm never made a claim upon the liquidated assets in Bankruptcy Court, the loss of insurance coverage was the fatal blow.

The law firm argued that since the plaintiff didn't have the ladder to prove that it was indeed defective, the case should be dismissed. The plaintiff asserted that the law firm was negligent for failing to preserve or inspect the ladder and that the delay in prosecuting his case caused his loss of any recovery. The plaintiff defeated the law firm's motion to dismiss his case relying on the affidavit of an expert who swore that based on plaintiff's description of the accident and pictures, the ladder was "defective based upon a reasonable degree of safety engineering and scientific certainty."

Of note, this case went to trial in 2010 and was dismissed by the trial court before the jury could deliberate because plaintiff had not retained a ladder expert. An appeal resulted in a retrial being scheduled and this time around the plaintiff retained a ladder expert. The defendant law firm lost the legal argument that plaintiff couldn't retain a liability expert upon a retrial that had not been disclosed prior to the first trial.

Ronald C. Burke, Esq

Trial Attorney with 30+ Years of Experience Attorney Ronald C. Burke, Esq. has more than 30 years of experience and has focused his career on representing clients in cases involving personal injury, medical malpractice and legal malpractice. He is a seasoned trial lawyer and has won many seven-figure settlements and verdicts for his clients over the years, including many case victories listed among the largest in the history of the New York State. He has been featured in the news and is a regular lecturer for the New York County Lawyers Association, as well as having lectured before the New York State Bar Association. Ron is also an attorney with Kelner & Kelner, a New York personal injury law firm. Awards and Accolades Mr. Burke's awards and accolades are many. Among them, he has been included in New York Super Lawyers® each year since 2010, and he has received the highest-possible AV® Rating from Martindale-Hubbell®. Verdict Search, a part of the New York Law Journal, frequently recognizes his notable successes after winning some of the highest settlements and verdicts in past years. He was also featured in their list of the "Top New York Verdicts " and "Top New York Settlements." He is a member of the New York State Bar Association and is licensed to practice law in the U.S. District Court for the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York, as well as before the United States Supreme Court. When Attorney Burke is not handling legal malpractice cases, he is highly involved in the local community. He was a member of the Village of Rockville Centre Volunteer Fire Department, has served on the local school board and as Chairman of the local Zoning Board. Learn more about Attorney Burke and how he can skillfully handle your malpractice case by contacting the Law Offices of Ronald C. Burke, Esq. right away to schedule your complimentary case evaluation. Our firm is here to help! Contact a New York Legal Malpractice Attorney Our firm provides each client's case with thorough preparation and aggressive representation, ensuring that you win the best possible results for your case whether it is settled or goes to trial. As a seasoned trial lawyer, Mr. Burke can provide the strong and relentless representation you need to establish negligence in a legal malpractice case and to recover any damages you may have suffered. Our firm can recover compensation for pre-trial and trial malpractice, violations of fee arrangements, loss of income, pain and suffering, and much more. Contact us today!


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