The Intrepid One™ breaks an amazing story of a botched lawsuit, botched again, then apparently botched again:
The malpractice case sprang roots 23 years ago when Jacobs Wind Electric and principal Paul Jacobs first began pursuing legal action against the Florida Department of Transportation in a patent case.Ok, question for Tom -- if you admittedly blew the deadline and it was "our fault" the case got dismissed for want of prosecution, why fight liability right up until the date of trial? Why not focus on damages and get the thing quietly settled?
Jacobs and his father invented a tidal gate that prevented water stagnation and debris accumulation in waterways.
Two years after allegedly discovering DOT was using the system in 1987, the plaintiffs sued the state in federal court for patent infringement. They later brought suit in Hillsborough Circuit Court, hiring Shahady, then with Houston & Shahady in Fort Lauderdale, in 1998. Soon after, Shahady merged his firm with Adorno & Yoss.
According to Paul Jacobs, Shahady and his firm took no action in the state case from 2001 to 2003. As a result, the suit was dismissed for "want of prosecution." According to the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure in effect at the time, lawsuits that lay dormant for more than one year can be dismissed. That rule has since been changed, and courts automatically notify parties before suits are dropped.
The dismissal was affirmed by the 2nd District Court of Appeal in 2004.
In 2005, Paul Jacobs sued Shahady and Adorno & Yoss for legal malpractice.
"Defendants' conduct in allowing the underlying lawsuit to lie dormant for a period of over one year … was a breach of defendants' duty to exercise reasonable care, skill and diligence on plaintiffs' behalf," the complaint stated.
If Shahady had done something during the year, the Jacobses could have recovered more than $1 million, representing the DOT's savings by using the device, they alleged.
Adorno fought the case right up until the trial last summer when the firm conceded liability. After a one-week trial, jurors found for the Jacobses in July, awarding them $300,000 plus $150,000 in attorney fees. Broward Judge John Murphy III added pre-judgment interest for a total verdict $1.5 million.
Even though the law firm admitted liability, it's appealing the verdict because it does not believe the dollar amount is fair, Shahady said.
"It was our fault that the suit got dismissed," Shahady said in an interview. "Mr. Jacobs did not cause this problem. But we felt pretty strongly that there was no basis for the damage award in terms of dollars."
It gets worse:
The circumstances surrounding the garnishment of the firm's Wachovia bank account was another case of Adorno & Yoss dropping the ball. The firm should have posted a bond to cover the judgment pending appeal, but "our attorney was on vacation, and it fell through the cracks," Shahady said.Just like the underlying case!
It gets worser:
He called the incident "one of those unfortunate things" and said it would not have happened if the Jacobses' case were in Fort Lauderdale rather than Tampa, and if it happened six months later after a change in the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure.I don't like to be too negative, but what does the court's proximity to your law office have to do with whether or not you allegedly calendared the date a case you are handling could get dismissed for want of prosecution?
Also, why blame the Rules for not informing you of that date?
It gets even worser:
Even though the law firm admitted liability, it's appealing the verdict because it does not believe the dollar amount is fair, Shahady said.Please don't.
Tom, you're a good lawyer. These things happen. Maybe take what has happened so far in this case as a sign that perhaps you all should consider a different approach?
I also don't see why Larry should feel bad about garnishing the firm to protect the judgment:
"Until the garnishment was issued, senior management at the firm would never talk to me," he said. "I wish they had handled things differently from beginning to end."What's shocking about this? Larry is obligated to protect the judgment on behalf of his client, not make sure employees at Yoss get paid from a diminishing set of funds.
Kellogg wound up releasing his garnishment the next day, saying he felt bad that employees did not get paid. At that point, the bond was posted.
An outside observer who did not want to be identified said he was shocked that Kellogg would garnish a law firm's bank account, particularly on payday.
But Kellogg said he immediately dropped the garnishment when he found out employees were affected. "I worked tirelessly on it," he said.
And I love how no one allegedly would reach out from Yoss to settle this thing directly with Larry. Instead you appear to be fighting tooth and nail, contesting liability, forcing the matter to go to trial, losing the trial, then appealing the judgment.
Then Julie finds out about it and you get to relive it all over again in the DBR.
Or is there another side to this story that I'm missing? Someone help me out here.