News Brief

John Shepperd Obtains Defense Verdict in Legal Malpractice Case, Despite Client’s Admission of Negligence

July 28, 2015

John R Shepperd (Partner-Houston) won a defense verdict in a legal malpractice trial in the 98th Judicial District Court of Travis County, Texas. John represented a law firm whose physician client sued a disability insurance company for failing to pay on a disability overhead insurance policy issued to that physician.  The physician was awarded $300,000 plus attorney fees at trial, but was dissatisfied with the award and appealed.  The physician’s law firm failed to perfect the appeal and the case was dismissed.  The doctor then sued the law firm.  The doctor’s attorney admitted liability, so the case was tried on causation and resolved by verdict in a non-jury trial.

Prior to the legal malpractice trial, John conceded that his client was negligent for failing to perfect the appeal. But he argued that this didn't cause any harm, since the doctor would not have won the appeal. Because a determination of how the court of appeals would have ruled is a question of law, the case had to be tried to the court rather than to a jury. The parties prepared briefs and argued the case to the trial court in the same manner it would have been argued if it were on appeal. The standard of review was de novo. The court sided with John's client and entered a take-nothing judgment against the physician.

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