Delay Tactic Fails in Legal Malpractice Case

     (CN) – A federal judge slammed a Catholic broadcaster for trying to delay its case against its former lawyers by amending a duplicative complaint.
     In rejecting the move, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth noted that “plaintiff has or should have long been aware of the information underlying the proposed amendment, amendment would delay trial and prejudice defendants, and there is a dilatory motive for the amendment.”
     The North American Catholic Education Programming Foundation, a nonprofit programmer, retained the law firm Womble, Carlyle, Sandridge & Rice for a regulatory matter in 1992.
     That relationship ended in 2006 because Womble Carlyle allegedly dropped the ball on several of the broadcaster’s licensure applications.
     In 2009, the foundation filed a four-count suit against the firm and attorney Howard Barr, grouping its claims by allegedly affected geographic market. The federal complaint in Washington, D.C., alleged legal malpractice, breach of contract, breach of implied duty of good faith and fair dealing, and breach of fiduciary duty.
     After Lamberth dismissed claims related to legal representation of the foundation in the Las Vegas market, the lawyers moved for partial judgment on the pleadings. While the lawyers claimed that the entire complaint is a duplicative legal malpractice count, the foundation said it could address the issues with an amended complaint.
     Lamberth agreed with the law firm.
     “Defendants made a clear and convincing case that several counts of plaintiff’s complaint are duplicative and should be stricken,” he wrote. “The plaintiff did not – as it could not – seriously contest this argument. Instead, plaintiff offered an amended complaint with the promise that it would resolve the issues. The amended complaint, however, still contained a duplicative count and alleged a host of new facts and theories based on information plaintiff possessed since 2006.”
     Since fact discovery cutoff ended on July 13, 2012, and trial is slated for Sept. 4, an amended complaint would be inappropriate, the 17-page decision states.
     “The plaintiff’s four causes of action are based on the same sets of facts and seek identical relief,” Lamberth wrote. “The plaintiff’s claims for breach of contract, breach of the implied duty of good faith and fair dealing, and breach of fiduciary duty are duplicative of its malpractice claim and must be dismissed. Courts in the District of Columbia treat such ‘breach’ claims – when arising from the same circumstances and seeking the same relief as a malpractice claim – as duplicative.”

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