Monday, December 28, 2015
Lawyers Can’t Be Blamed for Judge’s Tardiness—C.A.
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A law firm is not liable to a former client for failing to prod a judge—who granted a new trial one day past the deadline—into ruling sooner, the Court of Appeal for this district has ruled.
The appellant, Laibco, LLC, was found liable by a jury for wrongful termination of an employee, awarding him more than $2.4 million, including in excess of $1.2 million in punitive damages.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Richard L. Fruin Jr. granted a new trial—but a day after the 60-day deadline contained in Code of Civil Procedure §660. The parties subsequently settled, with Laibco paying $1,238,000—the amount assessed by the jury in actual damages.
Blaming the lawyers, Laibco sued the law firms of Strapp & Strapp and Horvitz & Levy LLP. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge made key rulings in favor of the defendants, and a defense verdict ensued.
The decision, which was not certified for publication, was filed Wednesday. Affirming, Presiding Justice Frances Rothschild of Div. One wrote:
“We need not decide whether an attorney could ever be held liable for failing to remind the court of the court’s own deadline, because Laibco presented insufficient evidence to show that Strapp & Strapp was the proximate cause of Laibco’s injury….In cases where attorneys have been held liable for failing to anticipate court errors, the attorneys had ample reason to foresee and respond to the error.”
Laibco pointed to Fruin having expressed uncertainty as to when the 60-day period began running. However, Rothschild pointed out, he had the correct date in mind by the end of the hearing, as evidence by his statement:
“November 18. Well, I certainly hope that I can rule upon this before November 18.”
The case is Laibco, LLC v. Strapp & Strapp, B257646.
Copyright 2015, Metropolitan News Company