My questions: What responsibility does a lawyer generally have to advise their potential or actual client that a case is a waste of the client’s money and time? Does the lawyer expose himself or herself to any liability for accepting obviously hopeless cases?
I was recently sitting in general sessions court here in TN awaiting my case to come up. (Representing myself, I won. Woot!) General sessions court in TN appears to handle all kinds of stuff: small claims, traffic, criminal, etc.
Having never been in a real court before, I entertained myself by watching the proceedings of other cases. What struck me as strange was the number of cases that were contested that, in my opinion, shouldn’t have ever gone to court. I’m not talking about cases where individuals represented themselves but cases in which one or both sides had (expensive) lawyers. I’m not a lawyer but, even with my limited knowledge, the cases were slam dunk.
A woman’s apartment building burned down and she sued the apartment company for the value of her possessions. Every time I’ve very rented an apartment, the apartment folks were very clear and repeatedly reminded residents that, in case of fire, the apartment company wasn’t responsible for renter’s possessions (and thus the renters should get renter’s insurance or deal with the loss).
In a second example, a mentally ill woman was petitioning for an order of protection against a friend. The friend had simply sent the mentally ill woman a few emails urging the mentally ill woman to get help for her declining mental state. The mentally ill woman was offended by the few emails and charged harassment. The strange thing about this case is that the mentally ill woman, by taking the case to court, was subjected to public testimony and rigorous cross examination about her mental condition. It seems to me that the legal aid attorney subjected her client to the very issue that the mentally ill woman wanting to avoid in the first place (questions about her mental status). Own goal.
So…assuming no complicating issues (such as gross negligence on the part of the apartment owners)…does an attorney have a responsibility or any liability in taking to court issues that are not in the best interests of the client? For example, as in the apartment fire case, of wasting the client’s money on attorney fees. Or, in the mental illness case, of exposing the client to the very issues the client wants to avoid?
What say ye?
And I know, you aren’t my attorney, blah, blah, blah. This is a general curiosity.