JM Eagle, also known as J-M Manufacturing, is the largest maker of plastic and PVC piping in the world, according to its website. In the 1980s, the company sold piping that contained asbestos, including for municipal water systems. While JM Eagle has not sold products containing asbestos for many years, it has been the target of lawsuits for asbestos-related injuries and deaths from exposure to their former products.
Errors at trial?
According to Courthouse News Service, JM Eagle filed a legal malpractice lawsuit against its long-time law firm that had defended the company in hundreds of these asbestos-based lawsuits. The plaintiff brought the suit in Los Angeles County Superior Court on April 6, reportedly asking for many millions of dollars for what it alleges was a disastrous trial loss with a $21 million judgment against it.
JM Eagle blames the firm’s lack of preparation for trial, mistakes made during the proceedings, failure to use trained tactics for asbestos suits and “substandard investigation.”
In the malpractice suit, JM Eagle is asking for its legal fees from that trial (Morgan v. J-M Manufacturing Company, Inc.) as well as economic and punitive damages. Punitive damages are meant to punish a wrongdoer (rather than reimburse for financial losses) and to deter others tempted to engage in similar harmful behavior.
Reportedly, JM Eagle feels that its law firm engaged in a pattern of behavior that advanced its own interests rather than those of its client. Specifically, the allegation is that the firm was friendly with the plaintiffs’ law firms and established a pattern in more than 400 cases of doing little investigation before advising JM Eagle to settle. The firm collected about $200 million this way in fees and stayed out of court to “[avoid] jeopardizing their standing with JMM any risk of failure at trial,” according to the complaint quoted by Courthouse News.
This pattern of behavior, however, did not allow the firm to adequately uncover all the facts required to adequately evaluate a settlement offer in light of the client’s interests. The complaint reportedly also alleges that this insufficient discovery and investigation caused the firm to face the Morgan trial without adequate preparation, leading to many mistakes and the ultimate loss, reports Courthouse News.
It will be interesting to see what happens in this major legal malpractice lawsuit. In the meantime, anyone who questions whether their attorney failed to adhere to the duty of care required in investigation and discovery, trial preparation and performance during legal proceedings, or whether their lawyer violated their duty of loyalty by not acting in the client’s best interests should speak with a legal malpractice lawyer as soon as possible.
The malpractice attorney can evaluate the situation and advise the client of potential legal remedies against their former legal representative.