California Court Finds in Favor of Attorney in Legal Malpractice Case


A California appellate court has affirmed a jury verdict for an attorney in a legal malpractice claim. In

Tong v Rucker a client alleged that her new attorney negligently represented her in a malpractice suit against her old lawyer. In the first case, the client had attempted to back out of a settlement she had reached with the old attorney, but the court enforced the settlement agreement. At the trial against the new attorney, the jury gave a verdict in favor of the new attorney, finding that the client had not successfully proved causation.

The client appealed the jury verdict, claiming that the trial court allowed jurors to discuss the case prior to deliberation. In fact, the record showed that the trial judge had repeatedly instructed the jury that the jurors were not permitted to discuss the case until they began deliberations. The judge had mentioned that it was permissible for jurors to discuss a case while it was ongoing in some jurisdictions, but made it clear that this was not the law in California.

The appellate court found that the record lacked any evidence that the trial judge had given the jurors permission to discuss the case prior to deliberation. Further, the court found no evidence that the jurors had actually conferred prior to deliberation. The judgment for the attorney was affirmed.

Decision: Tong v Rucker

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