Rudd v. Timm, 1995 WL 298950 (E.D. Pa. 1995).
Pa. underlying medical and legal malpractice
Student contributor: Cheryl Neuman
Facts: Plaintiff fell in a motel bathtub and sustained injuries. She visited various doctors over the next number of years and eventually developed a pseudomeningocele on her back. Doctor 1 stated that the medical condition was caused by Doctor 2’s injection. After hearing this information, plaintiff retained Law firm 1 to bring a medical malpractice claim against Doctor 2. Law firm 1 failed to identify any expert witnesses and Doctor 1 refused to testify as to the appropriate standard of care that Doctor 2 should have complied with. Law firm 1 eventually did get an expert report which stated that the medical condition was not necessarily caused by the injection and was therefore not negligence, but rather it was negligence for Doctor 3, plaintiff’s treating physician, not to have diagnosed the medical condition. The expert opinion further stated that it could have been caused by other surgeries as well. The lawsuit against Doctor 2 was therefore dismissed. Plaintiff then hired lawyer 2 to file a malpractice case against law firm 1. Lawyer 2, however, failed to answer the pleadings properly and then plaintiff filed a legal malpractice action against lawyer 2.
Issue: Should the claim against lawyer 2 be viable?
Ruling: Yes. The lawsuit is viable. In order for the plaintiff to recover against lawyer 2, she must establish she would have prevailed in the underlying suit against law firm 1, assuming that law firm 1 conducted proper research and sued the proper parties.
Lesson: The plaintiff wasn’t barred by the statute of limitations in this case because the underlying medical malpractice case was brought against the wrong doctor as a result of law firm 1’s negligence. Therefore, if the plaintiff could show that she would have prevailed against the appropriate doctor, then the malpractice case against the first lawyer and second lawyer is still available to the plaintiff.