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Gurski v. Rosenblum and Filan, LLC

Connecticut Supreme Court
885 A.2d 163 (2005)


Facts

Gurski (plaintiff), a podiatrist, filed a petition for bankruptcy on May 12, 1994. In 1997, Gurski was sued by Lee for medical malpractice on the ground that Gurski negligently treated Lee’s feet and caused her injury. Gurski’s medical malpractice insurance company, AIG, appointed the law firm of Rosenblum and Filan, LLC (law firm) to represent Gurski. Over the course of litigation, AIG informed Gurski that Lee’s claim against him was of a type that was not covered by his insurance benefits. AIG notified Gurski that he would need to obtain other counsel, as AIG would no longer pay the law firm to represent him. On July 6, 1998, the law firm notified Gurski that it had filed a motion to withdraw its appearance, that a hearing would be held on that motion, and that Gurski should seek other counsel. On both July 9, 1998 and August 27, 1998, the law firm informed Gurski of settlement hearings on Lee’s claim against him, and counseled him to attend the hearings. Neither Gurski nor the law firm attended these hearings, and a default judgment was entered against Gurski. Gurski was not informed of this judgment. On October 20, 1998, the law firm’s motion to withdraw its appearance for Gurski was granted. Gurski was not informed of this decision. On December 21, 1998, Gurski was informed that judgment for Lee in the amount of $152,000 in damages had been rendered against him. Gurski obtained new counsel, who filed a motion to open the judgment in Connecticut state court. The trial court denied the motion to open the judgment. Due to his bankruptcy, Gurski was unable to afford to pay this judgment to Lee. Gurski proposed a compromise whereby he would assign a claim for legal malpractice against the law firm to Lee. Lee’s judgment against Gurski would be fulfilled by the proceeds obtained from a successful legal malpractice claim against the law firm, up to $152,000. Gurski’s motion to compromise was granted by the bankruptcy court, and Gurski commenced a legal malpractice claim against the law firm in Connecticut state court. The jury awarded Gurski $136,800 in damages against the law firm, which was assigned to Lee to pay for the judgment for medical negligence Lee previously obtained against Gurski. The law firm appealed.

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