Defense verdict for legal mal for plaintiff's attorney sued following wrongful termination action. Placer County.

Summary

Plaintiff's attorney in employment case becomes defendant of professional negligence suit, wins legal malpractice case.

The Case

  • Case Name: Diane Colby v. Anthony Poidmore, Law Office of Anthony Poidmore
  • Court and Case Number: Placer County Superior Court / SCV0029671
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Thursday, August 07, 2014
  • Date Action was Filed: Wednesday, August 03, 2011
  • Type of Action: Legal Malpractice
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. J. Richard Couzens (Ret.)
  • Plaintiffs:
    Diane Colby, 56, real estate agent
  • Defendants:
    Anthony Poidmore, Law Office of Anthony Poidmore
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: Defense verdict.
  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 14 days.
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 2 hours.
  • Jury Polls: 9-3 answered “No” to first question of special verdict form on whether defendant Poidmore fell below the standard of care.

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Diane Colby in pro per, Rocklin.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Goodman & Associates, by Karen M. Goodman and Virginia Cale, Sacramento.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):

    James Plessinger, attorney and broker, Rocklin (since deceased).

  • Defendant's Technical Expert(s):

    Sue Ann Van Dermyden, attorney, Sacramento.

    Richard Barnes, CPA/ABV/CCF, Sacramento.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    Defendant attorney represented plaintiff in a wrongful termination case against her former employer. Plaintiff had been a new home sales agent and was terminated in May 2008. Plaintiff alleged that she was terminated because she was a whistle-blower who had complained about purported illegal real estate practices. Before trial, in the underlying wrongful termination/whistle blower action, her employer served plaintiff with a CCP §998 offer for $550,000 which plaintiff rejected. 

    The underlying case, entitled Diane Colby v. Signature Properties, went to trial in Sacramento County before Judge DeAlba, and on August 8, 2010 a jury verdict was reached in favor of defendant Signature Properties. Judgment was entered in favor of Signature Properties, and costs in the amount of $81,151.97 were awarded.

    Plaintiff filed a motion for new trial in the Colby v. Signature Properties case on the grounds of juror misconduct, but the motion was denied.

    Plaintiff sued defendants, in pro per, for professional negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, and fraud. Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. On July 3, 2012, summary adjudication was granted as to the cause of action for fraud.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    Plaintiff alleged that defendant committed malpractice in his representation of her in the underlying wrongful termination case. Plaintiff alleged that defendant failed to present the “true” whistle-blower case to the jury; failed to depose necessary witnesses, failed to prepare and/or call necessary witnesses to testify at trial; failed to allow plaintiff to take over the case in pro per in the middle of trial; and failed to report purported improper conduct between counsel for Signature Properties and jurors.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    Defendant denied all allegations, and contended that his actions were within the standard of care of an attorney and his decisions before and during trial were within his reasoned judgment as an experienced trial lawyer. Defendant also contended it was speculative whether “but for” defendant’s conduct, plaintiff would have won the case against Signature Properties.

     

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Plaintiff’s asserted damages were the value of her lost wrongful termination case and the costs awarded to Signature Properties in the underlying case.

     

Demands and Offers

  • Plaintiff §998 Demand: None.
  • Plaintiff Final Demand before Trial: $882,000
  • Plaintiff Demand during Trial: $2.1 million
  • Defendant §998 Offer: $20,000 on 9/4/12
  • Defendant Final Offer before Trial: $100,000
  • Defendant Offer during Trial: None.

Additional Notes

Plaintiff only designated one expert, a former attorney and licensed real estate broker. Defendants filed motions in limine to prevent plaintiff from calling undisclosed experts or eliciting expert opinions from undisclosed experts, and the motions were granted. As a result of her limited expert disclosure, plaintiff was unable to present any expert testimony on damages or on any alleged impairment on the part of defendant during the underlying trial.

After plaintiff’s case in chief, a defense motion for nonsuit was granted as to the cause of action for breach of fiduciary duty and the prayer for punitive damages, leaving only the cause of action for professional negligence to go to the jury.

 

Disclaimer

This is not an official court document. While the publisher believes the information to be accurate, the publisher does not guarantee it and the reader is advised not to rely upon it without consulting the official court documents or the attorneys of record in this matter who are listed above.

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