Sue It Yourself

Published December 25, 2011

A Georgia man is suing his lawyer for forcing him to go to law school.

The Georgia law student alleges he consulted the lawyer about whether he could sue his employer, a subsidiary of a Japanese-owned company, for allegedly discriminating against him and favoring his Japanese co-workers. The question was complicated by a treaty between Japan and the United States supposedly giving the company the right to discriminate and exempting it from U.S. civil rights laws.

At first the lawyer said a discrimination suit was barred by the treaty, but the attorney later reconsidered, filed a suit, and settled it for undisclosed damages. By that time, though, the statute of limitations had expired on some discrimination claims. So the student recovered less money than he would have.

That situation, the student alleges, forced him to enroll in law school. “But for” the erroneous legal advice, he alleged, he would not have quit his job and gone to law school. He sued the lawyer for malpractice, seeking damages he would have recovered for his time-barred employment claims plus the $260,000 he borrowed for his law school expenses and to support his family while in school. He also sued for punitive damages.

The trial court ruled he could seek to recover damages for the time-barred claims at trial, but that the other damages were not recoverable. The Georgia appellate court recently affirmed.

Source: Duncan v. Klein et al., Court of Appeals of Georgia, November 29, 2011