Thursday, May 7, 2009

Rep. Randal Mangham's bad day in court

Posted By on Thu, May 7, 2009 at 11:51 PM

State Rep. Randal Mangham, D-DeKalb, an attorney, was found liable by a DeKalb jury yesterday for a stunning $625,000 in damages for legal malpractice, according to Jim Walls at Atlanta Unfiltered.

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According to some attorneys I spoke to, legal malpractice cases are somewhat rare because the burden of proof for the plaintiff is fairly high. It's not like medical malpractice, where folks have been known to sue their doctors because they didn't like the outcome of a surgical procedure.

With legal malpractice, not only must you show that your attorney screwed up your case through some egregious, avoidable mistake — such as failing to file essential documents — but you've also got to convince a jury that if your case had been handled properly, you would've won. That's where the damages come in, as compensation for the money the  attorney prevented his client from collecting.

Anyway, Mangham was sued by a former plaintiff who he represented in a personal injury case stemming from a 1995 car wreck. The client, Karen Smith, accused Mangham of missing several filing deadlines and other procedural snafus that not only lost her the case but prevented her from re-filing. The two had already been to court in 2005, resulting in a $293,000 judgement against Mangham, who appealed the decision.

He should've let bad enough alone. Yesterday's decision will cost him more than double the damages assessed against him in 2005.

A spokesperson with the Georgia Bar Association tells me the organization doesn't keep any stats on legal malpractice and doesn't apply any penalties to members found liable for legal malpractice. But it's bound to hurt an attorney's reputation and, in Mangham's case, it could provide ammunition for future political opponents.

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