Friday, February 10, 2017

Essay II

West Bend Mutual Ins. Co. v. Roddy, Leahy, Gull & Zima and Paul Schumacher

West Bend Mutual Insurance Co. v. Roddy, Leahy, Gull, & Zima is a legal malpractice action, filed in federal district court. The plaintiff, an insurance company, has sued Paul Schumacher ("Schumacher"), its former lawyer, and Schumacher’s law firm, Roddy, Leahy, Gull & Zima (“RLGZ”). West Bend alleges that defendants committed malpractice in defending it in a prior workers’ compensation case, causing it to have to pay on a claim brought by the injured employee of one of the companies West Bend insured.

The controlling pleading is the Second Amended Complaint.

Applicable substantive law provides that a claim for legal malpractice includes the following elements:

(1) the existence of an attorneyclient relationship that establishes a duty on the part of the attorney, (2) a negligent act or omission constituting a breach of that duty, (3) proximate cause of injury, and (4) actual damages.

Courts have described the legal malpractice cause of action as following a casewithinacase model:

A legal malpractice suit is by its nature dependent upon a predicate lawsuit. Thus, a legal malpractice claim presents a case within a case. [N]o malpractice exists unless counsel’s negligence has resulted in the loss of an underlying cause of action, or the loss of a meritorious defense if the attorney was defending in the underlying cause of action.

To prevail on a legal malpractice claim, a plaintiff must prove that the defendant breached a duty, that the breach caused the plaintiff to lose a valid claim or defense in the underlying action, and that, absent that loss of a valid claim or defense, the underlying claim or defense would have been successful. In effect, a legal malpractice plaintiff must present and prove two cases—one showing that her attorney performed negligently and a second (the “predicate,” “underlying,” or “case within the case”) showing the plaintiff had a meritorious claim or defense in the underlying action that she lost because of counsel’s negligence.

Defendants move to dismiss all claims in the Second Amended Complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. As the Federal District Judge hearing the case, decide defendant’s motion.

[Note: In your answer, you can and should cite to relevant allegations, by paragraph number, from the Second Amended Complaint]