Thomas v. Bethea
Maryland Court of Appeals
351 Md. 513, 718 A.2d 1187 (1998)
Attorney David Thomas (defendant) represented Gerrine Bethea and her minor daughter, Marsharina Bethea (plaintiff) in a lead-paint-poisoning case against the landlords of three homes. Thomas served two landlords but not the third, W.H. Groscup & Sons, Inc (Groscup). Thomas allegedly recommended that Gerrine settle for $2,500 conditioned on releasing all three landlords. Twelve years later, Marsharina sued for malpractice, alleging Thomas recommended surrendering a valuable case against Groscup for no compensation. The evidence showed Gerrine told Groscup that Marsharina had elevated lead levels before entering the lease, Groscup said the apartment—with flaking and peeling lead paint—had no lead paint, and Groscup had $300,000 of insurance coverage. Another attorney testified Marsharina had a strong case that should have gone to the jury to decide damages. The malpractice jury decided a reasonable attorney would have recommended settling for $25,000 and that Marsharina sustained $125,000 in damages because of lead-paint exposure at Groscup’s property. Judgment initially entered for Marsharina for $125,000, but the trial court granted judgment notwithstanding the verdict for Thomas because Marsharina had not presented evidence of a reasonable settlement amount. The Maryland Court of Special Appeals reinstated the $125,000 judgment, reasoning the jury could decide the probable judgment amount and collectibility in awarding damages in a lost-cause-of-action case. Thomas appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Wilner, J.)
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