Malpractice case against attorney who settled injury claim is reinstated; consortium theory may be added
In Nolan v. Chapman, an injury victim sued her attorney after settling her injury claim for $425,000.00. She was injured while driving a FedEx van, so she was collecting no fault and workers compensation benefits when the injury settlement from the at-fault driver was under discussion. She claimed that in response to a direct question, her attorney told her that the workers compensation insurer would have no lien on the settlement if she agreed to accept it. In fact, the comp carrier does have a lien allowing it a significant credit against payments made after three years (when no fault wage payments expire).
The trial judge had granted summary disposition of the injured woman's malpractice claim, holding that she could not prove that she suffered damage as a result of the attorney's allegedly mistaken advice. The Court of Appeals reversed, noting that if the lower court's analysis was accurate, no client would ever have relief from an attorney's professional negligence. The Court also reversed the trial judge's holding that the malpractice complaint could not be amended to allege negligence in failing to allocate a part of the settlement to the spouse's loss of consortium.