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Causation defense fails in legal malpractice appeal

A Virginia Beach lawyer who missed a filing deadline for a major personal injury claim is again facing liability with a reversal today by the Supreme Court of Virginia.

Sued for malpractice, attorney Louis N. “Mike” Joynes II argued that, even though he failed to file on time on behalf of an accident victim, the chain of causation was broken when the plaintiff later failed to file suit in Maryland, where the limitations period is longer.

The trial court judge agreed and dismissed the case, but the Supreme Court finds two problems with that reasoning.

The failure to file in Maryland could not be a superseding cause of damages, the court holds, because it was Joynes’ negligence that created the need for a Maryland lawsuit in the first place.  Moreover, the court said, a Maryland suit would be incomplete relief for the plaintiff, since only one of two potential defendants was subject to suit in that state.

By Peter Vieth

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