In 2019, the Colorado Supreme Court issued a new ruling that has the potential to drastically affect certain legal malpractice claims. The court says that plaintiffs must prove that any lost judgment they may have been due was actually collectible.
In the ruling, Justice Monica Marquez wrote: “The court holds that because the collectability of the underlying judgment is essential to the causation and damages of a client’s negligence claim against an attorney, the client-plaintiff bears the burden of proving that the lost judgment in the underlying case was collectible.”
What does that mean?
Well, essentially, this: Imagine that you received astonishingly poor care from a surgeon that left you disfigured when you went in for plastic surgery. Quite rightfully, you sue, but the attorney you hire makes a mistake. They don’t file your claim until the day after the statute of limitations has passed — which ends your case.
You then hire a new attorney to file a legal malpractice claim against the first attorney — but you discover that the surgeon who operated on you had no medical insurance and has since fled the country with all their assets. You may be able to prove that you were a victim of medical malpractice — and you would have likely won that case — but there’s no “collectibility” for the lost award.
The court’s new ruling adds a new layer of complexity to cases that are usually already quite complicated. With this in mind, it’s important to get started early if you think that you’ve been victimized by an attorney’s mistake.