California Appeals Court Affirms Defense Verdict in Legal Malpractice Action


A California appellate court has upheld a defense verdict in a legal malpractice action. In Takahashi v. Snell & Wilmer, LLP, a client sued his firm for negligent representation defending him in a partnership dispute. A partner had sued claiming a right to partnership proceeds.

The client sued his former firm after losing a jury trial with his former partner. He claimed that the firm had failed to uncover exculpatory evidence in discovery. The legal malpractice case went to trial before a jury resulting in a verdict for the law firm. The client appealed, claiming that a jury instruction was improper. The jury had been instructed that it could discount the weight of weaker evidence if it found that a party could have produced stronger evidence on the same issue.

The client had declined to testify at the partnership trial regarding repayment of a loan, rather electing to put in documentary evidence of the loan repayment. During closing argument, it was argued that the documents should be discounted because oral testimony would have been stronger rebuttal evidence.

The appellate court found that the jury instruction was proper since both parties could have taken advantage of the instruction. Indeed, the client had specifically argued that the documentary evidence was a stronger representation of the transaction than his own recollection of events, which had occurred years prior. The appeals court affirmed the jury verdict in favor of the law firm.

Decision: Takahashi v. Snell & Wilmer, LLP


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