Florida Supreme Court Set to Decide a Legal Malpractice Case With High Stakes
According to a report from the Daily Business Review, the Florida Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments in a key legal malpractice that could alter the relationship that law firms have with certain third parties—most notably, insurance companies. In this article, our experienced Miami legal malpractice attorneys provide an overview of the case headed before the Florida Supreme Court and we explain what is stake.
An Overview of the Backgrounds and Facts
The legal malpractice case being reviewed by Florida’s highest court has taken a long, winding road to get to Tallahassee. The case centers around the settlement of an accounting malpractice dispute that occurred more than a decade ago. The defendant in this case is Kubicki Draper—a defense litigation firm with offices throughout Florida. The plaintiff in the case is Arch Insurance Co.—a North Carolina-based insurance company.
Here is the key issue: In representing a customer of Arch Insurance (an accounting firm), attorneys at Kubicki Draper settled the accounting malpractice claim for around $3.5 million. The insurance company contends that the case could have been settled for significantly less if a certain legal defense related to the statute of limitations was raised.
However, thus far, the insurance company’s legal malpractice claim has been repeatedly dismissed for lack of standing. As the Fourth District Court of Appeals determined, the insurance company cannot sue for legal malpractice, because they were never actually the “client” of the law firm.
The Key Question: What Obligation Do Florida Attorneys Owe to an Interested Third Party?
The fundamental question before the Florida Supreme Court asks what obligations lawyers/law firms owe to third parties. It is clear that a client can bring a malpractice claim against a law firm, but what about other interested third parties? Arch Insurance Co. was not a client of Kubicki Draper. However, one of its customers, a South Florida account firm, was a client.
If the Florida Supreme Court rules in favor of the insurance company, it could create a largely new category of “co-clients”—often insurance companies, these would be parties that, while not technically the client of a legal professional, might still be owed certain duties by the professional.
Our legal malpractice attorneys will keep a close eye on this decision. If the insurance company prevails, it will alter the landscape of malpractice claims in Florida. This decision could have major implications for many law firms, especially those that interact with insurance companies.
Contact Our South Florida Legal Malpractice Defense Attorneys Today
At Pike & Lustig, LLP, our Florida legal malpractice lawyers are skilled, solutions-focused advocates for legal professionals. We are proud to be lawyers’ lawyers. If you or your law firm is facing a malpractice claim, our legal team can help.
To set up a strictly confidential, no obligation consultation, please call us today. With offices in Miami and West Palm Beach, we represent legal professionals throughout Southeastern Florida, including in Palm Beach County, Broward County, Miami-Dade County, and beyond.