A Florida District Court of Appeal has reversed a lower court’s denial of an attorney’s motion seeking dismissal of a legal malpractice action due to improper venue. The client, a Tennessee corporation, was a defendant in a federal court action in Orlando, Florida. The client had hired an attorney to act as local counsel, who neglected to file a responsive pleading in the case, which resulted in a $4 million default judgment against the client.
In attempting to resurrect the case, a principal of the corporation and its other attorney had prepared and filed a false affidavit, which the principal later relied upon in giving testimony in support of a motion to vacate the default judgment. The federal court nonetheless denied the motion. The client then filed a legal malpractice action against its local counsel in state court in Brevard County, maintaining that venue was proper there because the improper conduct of the attorney involving the false affidavit had taken place in that county.
Florida statutes permit an action to be filed in the county where the cause of action occurred. In Florida this means the “location where the attorney’s asserted negligence impacted upon [the] client’s economic interests.” The appellate court determined that Brevard County was an improper venue because there was no allegation in the complaint that the falsified affidavit had caused the entry of default judgment. Orlando was the proper venue because it was the location where the responsive pleading should have been filed and where the client suffered harm.
Decision: Moscowitz v Oldham Post.docx