This case involved a young inexperienced lawyer going to trial unprepared. His client’s case was special but he failed to do the work that was required to ensure she received a fair and just outcome of her divorce trial.
My client had been married under Islamic law in her country of origin, Iran. Under this law, the husband and wife enter into a Mahr agreement before their marriage. In the agreement, the husband agrees to Mahr, which is a sum of money or property to be paid to the wife in the event of a divorce. At least one Florida court has expressly held that Mahr agreements are enforceable as civil contracts: Akileh v. Elchahal, 666 So.2d 246 (Fla. 2d DCA 1996).
When she hired her divorce attorney, Ms. J informed him of the Mahr agreement. The amount in the agreement was significant: gold coins worth approximately $200,000.00. The attorney left the law firm and her case was assigned to a young lawyer who had recently graduated law school. When the case went to trial, an older experienced lawyer accompanied him. Although the Mahr agreement had been specifically identified in a pre-trial statement, the young lawyer completely failed to raise the Mahr agreement during the trial.
Our client then attempted to undo the damage that had been done. She first appealed, but the appeal was rejected because the issue was not raised by the lawyer at trial. She then sued her husband, following him out of state, to hold him accountable for the payment under the Mahr agreement. She was awarded a judgment for the value of the gold coins.
In the legal malpractice lawsuit against the young lawyer, we were able to recover a settlement for the significant attorney’s fees incurred by our client. As additional damages recovered was the loss of use-value for the delayed compensation.