Collectibility in Legal Malpractice Suits – A Required Element in Proving Damages: Schmidt v. Coogan

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In Schmidt v. Coogan, No. 41279-9-II, 2012 WL 5331567 (October 30, 2012), the Washington Court of Appeals held that (1) collectibility is a required component in determining legal malpractice damages and (2) the failure to prove collectibility is fatal to a plaintiff trying to establish damages in a legal malpractice action.

The Underlying Facts -

In Schmidt, plaintiff Teresa Schmidt retained attorney Timothy Coogan to represent her in a slip and fall action against a Tacoma grocery store. Coogan failed to file Schmidt’s lawsuit before the statute of limitations expired and Schmidt sued Coogan for legal malpractice. Following a jury trial, the jury returned a verdict against Coogan for $32,000 in past economic damages and $180,500 in non-economic damages. Coogan moved for a new trial on the issue of damages and the trial court granted the new trial.

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