By Will Jordan
Remember that movie Inception? Truth be told, we could no more summarize its plot than read War and Peace in its original Russian. But, we know it had something to do with dreams within dreams within . . . you get the point. Today, we turn our attention to the Inception of the legal malpractice world: the case-within-a-case-within-a-case. The concept, which a few different courts (see here, for example) have recognized, arises when a client brings a legal malpractice suit against his attorney arising from the attorney’s representation of the client . . . in a legal malpractice case. Let’s break that down. Client hires Attorney A to represent him in a breach of contract action. Client is unsatisfied with the result in the breach of contract case and hires Attorney B to bring a legal malpractice suit against Attorney A. Under the case-within-a-case concept, in order to succeed in his legal malpractice action against Attorney A, Client must prove that, but for Attorney A’s negligence, Client should have obtained a more favorable outcome in the breach of contract action. Unsatisfied with the outcome of the legal malpractice action against Attorney A, Client hires attorney C to bring a legal malpractice case against Attorney B. Under the case-within-a-case-within-a-case standard, in order to prevail in his lawsuit against Attorney B, Client must prove that he should have succeeded in the breach of contract action AND that he should have succeeded in the case against Attorney A. The bad news? Confusion. The good news? The legal malpractice defense lawyer now has three bites at the apple. There has to be a basis for summary judgment somewhere in one of the three cases!
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