Legal Malpractice Verdicts and Settlements
$2.8 Million – Improper Legal Advice Trial
When Ohio-based Flor-Ohio Ltd., the owners of a popular Brevard County manufactured homes community, the Lakes of Melbourne, decided to introduce rental rate increases on their mobile home lots, they hired a Tallahassee law firm that promoted itself as experts in the field of mobile home law – specifically hiring David Eastman, partner in the firm of Parker, Skelding, Labasky & Corry, P.A., which also represented the Florida Manufactured Housing Association.
Florida’s law requires that to introduce a rental rate increase, the owners of the property must do two things: first, give 90 days, written notice to each affected tenant; second, give 90 days, written notice to the Board of Directors of the Homeowners Association. The notices must be either hand delivered 90 days before the rent increases are scheduled to go into effect, or that five additional days be allowed for the post office to deliver the notices by mail.
Because Mr. Eastman failed to give The Lakes of Melbourne the proper legal advice, the rental rate increases were successfully challenged in several lawsuits filed by the Lakes of Melbourne Homeowners Association.
Flor-Ohio turned to Nance Cacciatore for help. Working as a team, Partners Sammy Cacciatore and Chip Barger filed a lawsuit against Mr. Eastman, alleging legal malpractice. In addition to proving that Mr. Eastman gave improper and inaccurate legal advice, Mr. Cacciatore and Mr. Barger had to demonstrate to a jury, and later to the appeals court judges, just how much income the Lakes of Melbourne lost when four years of rental increases were invalidated.
When preparing this case for trial, Mr. Barger and Mr. Cacciatore used examples of Parker, Skelding’s law firm newsletters, which described their lawyers as mobile home law experts. In fact, once a year the firm sent a checklist of changes in Florida statutes affecting mobile home parks to their clients. They also produced a settlement video to help present the case of legal malpractice. “When Mr. Eastman actually denied his negligence on videotape, and repeatedly contradicted himself, this set the tone for the rest of the trial,” says Chip Barger.
During the two-week-long trial in Brevard County, Mr. Cacciatore and Mr. Barger clearly showed that Mr. Eastman committed legal malpractice. They also presented the projections by an expert economist on the amount of revenue that the Lakes of Melbourne lost as a result of following Mr. Eastman’s legal advice.