Legal Malpractice – Rutter, Hobbs & Davidoff Hit With $10 Million Malpractice Verdict
June 29, 2011
A jury has issued a $10 million malpractice verdict against Rutter, Hobbs & Davidoff Inc. and two of its senior attorneys over a 1997 business contract.
The June 15 verdict, which followed a month-long trial in Los Angeles County Superior Court, was returned against the Los Angeles firm; name partner Frank Hobbs, who has since retired; and shareholder Geoffrey Gold, former head of the firm’s litigation department.
An additional arbitration proceeding over related claims, including potential punitive damages associated with a failed lawsuit the firm filed to enforce the 1997 contract, will take place in the near future against Hobbs; Gold; Brian Davidoff, managing director of the firm; transactional attorney Fred Fenster; Olivia Goodkin, chairwoman of the labor & employment practice; and Rosslyn Hummer, a former attorney at the firm.
Don Howarth, co-founder of Howarth & Smith in Los Angeles, who represented the plaintiff in the malpractice case, said he expects to ask for punitive damages of up to three times the $10 million verdict during the arbitration hearing.
“We will be seeking punitive damages of two to three times the actual damages of $10 million because they went forward … with an action that had no basis without telling their client,” Howarth said. “That’s a common problem today, where lawyers think they’re in business for themselves instead of being in business for their client.”Davidoff said the firm planned to file post-trial motions to review the jury’s decision and, if that fails, would appeal the verdict.