The Unavailability of Emotional Distress Damages in Legal Malpractice Claims
By Will Jordan
A lot of jurisdictions don’t have any law addressing the ability of a legal malpractice plaintiff to recover damages for emotional distress. But, just within the last couple of weeks, at least two courts have recognized that emotional distress damages generally are not recoverable in the context of a legal malpractice case. In Rodriguez v. Nam Min Cho, B256985 (Cal. Ct. App May 7, 2015), the California Court of Appeals noted that “a plaintiff generally could not recover emotional distress damages for legal malpractice.” In Desposito v. New Jersey, C.A. No. 14-1641 (D.N.J. May 5, 2015), the U.S. District Court in New Jersey similarly indicated that “emotional distress damages are generally unavailable in a legal malpractice action absent ‘egregious’ and ‘extraordinary’ circumstances.” The Desposito court went on to say that “damages should be generally limited to recompensing the injured party for his economic loss.” In jurisdictions without any law on this issue, there is some good fodder for defense attorneys to cite when a plaintiff seeks to recover emotional distress damages in his legal malpractice claim.