$450,000 Legal Malpractice

On February 10, 1996, at approximately 4:00 p.m., a 39 year old employee of Belle Scarpe, Inc., d/b/a Ramsey Saab located at 587 Rt. 17th South, Ramsey, New Jersey walked out of the back door of the dealership to get a car for a customer. As he descended the steps, the tread on one of the steps allegedly “flipped up”, causing him to fall. There was already construction on a different part of the steps. He hit his lower back and left elbow against the cement stairs. The plaintiff sustained serious injuries including but not limited to a large disc herniation at L4-5 with left L5 radiculopathy requiring three surgical procedures to the lower back.

Originally, the plaintiff hired a Bergen County attorney, who missed the statute of limitations. He had failed to file a law suit within two years. The client then went to a New York attorney who filed a law suit in the State of New York which was ultimately dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. The plaintiff then retained Harrison J. Gordon for legal malpractice against the first attorney. In this case, the client worked for the car dealership, Ramsey Saab Auto, which leased the property where he fell. After voluminous investigation and discovery, it was revealed that some of the principals of the car dealership also owned the land although title was in the name of different entities. Issues had to be investigated regarding ownership of land and whose duty it was to provide maintenance, i.e., the landlord and tenant under the lease and/or the owner/landlord. A lease was produced that showed most of the maintenance was the responsibility of the tenant-employer of the client. The defendants contended that this should only have been a workers’ compensation matter against the employer and they denied liability for the third party action.   This matter settled for $450,000.00* out of a $500,000.00 policy on the eve of trial.

Other issues involved were whether or not the case within a case had to be proven which was difficult due to the passage of time.

*Results may vary depending on your particular facts and legal circumstances.