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KMG

Lost the Civil Case

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We lost a civil case, a jury trial.  While our attorney did a good job on some parts, he did not get the most important evidence in, he got stuck on one minor aspect of the case that he thought would tug at the hearts of our jury, and missed talking about the very basic defenses of the complaint or getting in the dated photos and written documents proving our side.  After the verdict, then our attorney really fought for us and the judge even gave us a small credit on the judgment because he knew that part of the case was proven through the testimony.  It just wasn't pointed out to the jury and followed up with the rest of our evidence on that point, so they missed it.

I am just sick, I had wanted to represent us pro se and hired the attorney only because the judge told me to at the pre trial hearing.  He's an older man, very experienced and respected and we liked him, but he got off track and now we're out thousands of dollars.  

Do we have any options in a situation like this?  Can we appeal based on an attorney forgetting to address the main defenses?  This is SC Magistrate Court.  

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4 minutes ago, KMG said:

We lost a civil case, a jury trial.

 

Who are "we"?  You and who else?  What sort of case?

 

 

4 minutes ago, KMG said:

our attorney . . . did not get the most important evidence in

 

What evidence?  Why wasn't it admitted?

 

 

5 minutes ago, KMG said:

Do we have any options in a situation like this?

 

Sure you do, but knowing what they might be would require knowing the details of the case.

 

 

6 minutes ago, KMG said:

Can we appeal based on an attorney forgetting to address the main defenses?

 

You can, but an appeal on such grounds would almost certainly be summarily dismissed.  You need to sit down with your attorney and discuss whether there are any viable bases for an appeal.  If there aren't, then you can consult with another attorney about possibly suing for legal malpractice, but such cases are almost impossible to win.

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It was a breach of contract, commercial lease.  We are a small business.  We left two months early after landlord refused to fix a nuisance.  He re-rented immediately and was in the unit upfitting for the next tenant days after we moved out. They sued us for that month's rent and the following month. We had dated photos and written proof that weren't brought up.  The attorney barely touched on it, instead spent his time on one part of our counterclaim.

I wouldn't sue for malpractice.  I take responsibility for not insisting that I see what he had prepared.  

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One part of your explanation is not clear.  You say you left the premises two months early and the landlord relet the premises within days.  When you say he relet the premises do you mean he actually received rent from the new tenant for the remaining two month of you leaving.  Or did he obtain a new tenant who would take possession and commence paying rent at the end of the two month period?

 

Anyway, an appeal cannot be based on errors of the party or his or her attorney in presenting evidence or focusing on the wrong issues.  In a civil case, it can only be based on errors by the judge in deciding issues of law in the case that have been  brought to the attention of the judge during the trial.

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I'm surprised you lost, given the information in your earlier thread:

 

https://boards.answers.findlaw.com/topic/242678-commercial-lease-constructive-eviction/?tab=comments#comment-623128

 

Did the judge provide a reason for his decision?

 

Not what you think you heard in court.

 

What did he write in the case notes?

 

You can get them at the courthouse.

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14 minutes ago, adjusterjack said:

I'm surprised you lost, given the information in your earlier thread:

 

https://boards.answers.findlaw.com/topic/242678-commercial-lease-constructive-eviction/?tab=comments#comment-623128

 

Did the judge provide a reason for his decision?

 

Not what you think you heard in court.

 

What did he write in the case notes?

 

You can get them at the courthouse.

I know!  It was a jury trial.  They never heard from our attorney that the landlord had NO damages because he rented to the tenant that blasted the music immediately.  The attorney didn't explain clearly about quiet enjoyment or constructive eviction. Didn't mention unjust enrichment at all.  We weren't allowed to mention the decibel readings.  The landlord's side blatantly lied several times, which I guess is typical.  And by the end, even the judge thought it was fair that we only use the property so many hours a week and the loud tenant could have a turn blasting loud music for so many hours a week.  Except we didn't rent part time, we worked 8 am to 10 pm.  And we didn't have limited hours in our lease.  Ugh.  I do think the judge added an extra sentence to the jury instructions on constructive eviction that didn't make sense and I would like to check that out, sounded like it came from a regular eviction instruction, where the tenant was liable for rent until it was re-rented, exactly the opposite of a constructive eviction.  

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3 hours ago, adjusterjack said:

Did the judge provide a reason for his decision?

 

Jack, you evidently completely missed that the case was decided by a jury after a trial, not the judge. There won't be a written opinion on the trial outcome.

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6 hours ago, KMG said:

Do we have any options in a situation like this?  Can we appeal based on an attorney forgetting to address the main defenses?  This is SC Magistrate Court.  

 

As others have correctly said, you do not have a basis for appeal based on your own attorney's failure to present something you think should have been presented. While you might have a case for malpractice, to win that requires more than just that your attorney could have presented things that he failed to present. You also have to prove that it would have changed the outcome. And the problem is that it is quite possible the jury would have sided with the landlord anyway. It is very difficult to predict what a jury will do. I've seen cases in which the attorney did everything a very good attorney would do in a case that to most would be a clear winner for that attorneys client still end up with jury verdicts for the opposing side. Because of this attorney malpractice claims are difficult to win in this kind of circumstance. Losing certainly stings, but trying to armchair lawyer the case afterward and think that it clearly would have come out differently had something else been done is just an effort in frustration. You don't know the outcome would have changed, and even if it might have made a difference you are stuck with the outcome you have.

 

Had you gone pro se, the outcome likely would not have been much better. Pro se parties often trip up over even basic rules of procedure and evidence, doing considerable damage to their case. This is not surprising when they have had little to no training or experience in litigation. Especially when the other side has an experienced lawyer to exploit those mistakes it can make for a very rough road for the pro se party.

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6 minutes ago, Tax_Counsel said:

 

Had you gone pro se, the outcome likely would not have been much better. Pro se parties often trip up over even basic rules of procedure and evidence, doing considerable damage to their case. This is not surprising when they have had little to no training or experience in litigation. Especially when the other side has an experienced lawyer to exploit those mistakes it can make for a very rough road for the pro se party.

Yes, the procedures and rules of evidence were exactly why I hired the attorney after the judge told me to.  Unfortunately though, now I have the worst outcome, I am paying both attorneys and the double dipping landlord and I am the one who had damages, which also weren't presented by my attorney.

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Well, it got worse.  My attorney filed a motion to reconsider without telling us or letting us review it.  Went to the hearing and the opposing attorney brought up a dozen cases that had nothing to do with our case, rattling off nonsense, the judge agreed with him, denied our side's motion.  The other attorney asked the judge to increase his award for his legal fees and the judge said absolutely.

 

So now we get to pay out even more.

 

As we walked out, the judge asked the other attorney to stay to discuss "that other case."  Hmm...   Don't think we could've won no matter what.

 

My question today, how do we pay the judgment and make sure the other attorney notifies the court to show it's satisfied?  We don't trust them at all, obviously.  I tried to see if the court could handle it, but they said no.  

 

We're thinking of sending it certified mail, with copies to our attorney and the court, or is there some legal form we need?  We found the Satisfaction of Judgment form but in our state, that's for the judge to sign.  We even thought of taking the payment to the attorney's office and having him sign something.  

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18 minutes ago, KMG said:

how do we pay the judgment and make sure the other attorney notifies the court to show it's satisfied?

 

I highlighted four words that I'm going to disregard, because I think the sentence without those four words is what you're really asking.  I'm not in your state, so I don't know the procedural specifics, but the way this sort of thing is generally done is that you exchange a check for an acknowledgment of satisfaction of judgment, which then gets filed with the court.  You'll need to discuss with your attorney the specifics of how it works in your state.

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