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PA: You Can't Win 'Em All: Negligent Referrals

Bourke v. Kazaras, 746 A.2d 642 (Pa. Super. 2000).

PA: Underlying tort case

By: Laura Binski

Facts: The client was injured as a result of a fall on a cruise ship deck. The client contacted the Lawyer Referral and Information Service (LRIS) of the Philadelphia Bar to get a lawyer recommendation. The recommended lawyer failed to file the client’s claim before the statute of limitations period. The client successfully sued for malpractice against the lawyer, but has been unable to collect any money from the judgment. The client is now suing the LRIS for referring her to that lawyer. The client’s claims were dismissed and she now appeals.

Issue: Is there, or should there be, a cause of action for negligently referring a client to an unskilled or dishonest lawyer?

Ruling: No. Pennsylvania law does not recognize a cause of action for negligent referral, and this court declines to create one. Any court decision that holds that referring lawyers should responsible for the receiving lawyer’s misconduct would be logically and legally unpersuasive, and could disrupt the process of lawyer referrals which is integral to the legal profession. Felker v. O’Connell, 1990 WL 31912, 1 (E.D. Pa. 1990).

Lesson: There is no need to create or recognize a cause of action for negligent referrals. The law already provides protection for clients by imposing liability on the lawyer who does not conduct himself.

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Posted in: Pennsylvania