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Former New Jersey commissioner files legal malpractice suit

A former commissioner of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has filed a legal malpractice lawsuit seeking more than $2 million in damages, after her lawyer reportedly abandoned her case without notice due to an illness.

The New York woman is suing the lawyer for legal malpractice in relation to a 2010 lawsuit against a construction company. The woman had filed litigation against the construction company because she alleged that there were construction defects in her home.

The woman hired her lawyer in the early 2000s, but in 2006 her lawyer left her current firm and started a new firm. The lawyer then reportedly asked the client to bring the lawsuit over to her new firm, and told her that she would work on a contingency fee basis.

However, the woman said that she was charged hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and related costs while the case was in limbo because of her lawyers repeated absences. It later turned out that the lawyer had suffered a debilitating illness, but that she did not notify her client of this lapse of availability.

This lawyer ultimately withdrew from the case in 2008, and the woman hired another firm. She lost the lawsuit in 2010.

While, of course, suffering an illness is beyond one's control, there are always ways to handle these things professionally, and it may turn out that this was not handled correctly in this case. A judge has commented that the original lawyer should have notified her client that she was unable to work due to hospitalization; this judge also said that the lawyer did not properly prepare the case in question, and that her conduct was irresponsible.

The woman is no longer practicing law. The case is scheduled for trial in September.

Source: Aspen Daily News, "Former attorney fights $2M malpractice lawsuit," Chad Abraham, Jan. 23, 2012

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