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Lukas v. McCoy

Appellate Court of Connecticut

May 26, 2015

WILLIAM LUKAS III
v.
JASON L. McCOY ET AL

Argued February 10, 2015.

Page 828

Action to recover damages for legal malpractice, and for other relief, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Toll and, where the action was withdrawn as to the defendant McCoy Law Firm, LLC, et al.; thereafter, the matter was tried to the jury before Cobb, J.; verdict for the named defendant; subsequently, the court denied the plaintiff's motions to set aside the verdict and for a new trial; thereafter, the court rendered judgment in accordance with the verdict, from which the plaintiff appealed to this court.

Affirmed.

SYLLABUS

The plaintiff sought to recover damages from the defendant attorney, M, for his alleged legal malpractice with respect to M's negligent representation of the plaintiff in his chapter 13 bankruptcy proceedings. The plaintiff alleged that M had failed to attend a hearing that was held to determine whether to confirm or dismiss the plaintiff's bankruptcy petition, and that M had failed to communicate with and provide the necessary documentation to the bankruptcy trustee, which resulted in the bankruptcy court's dismissal of his petition as the trustee had requested. M filed an answer denying the plaintiff's allegations and a special defense alleging contributory negligence. The matter was tried to a jury, which returned a general verdict in favor of M. Thereafter, the trial court denied the plaintiff's motions to set aside the verdict and for a new trial, in which he had asserted that the jury verdict was against the weight of the evidence because he had provided ample testimony regarding M's breach of the applicable standard of care and the confirmability of his petition. The trial court subsequently rendered judgment in accordance with the verdict, and the plaintiff appealed to this court.

Held :

1. The general verdict rule precluded review of the plaintiff's claim that the trial court abused its discretion by denying his motions to set aside the verdict and for a new trial; because M had denied the plaintiff's negligence claim in his answer and had alleged a special defense of contributory negligence, and the plaintiff did not request any interrogatories that would have clarified the jury's findings, it was unclear to this court whether the jury's verdict was premised on a finding of an absence of negligence on the part of M, or on a finding of contributory negligence with respect to the plaintiff.

2. The plaintiff could not prevail on his related claims that the trial court committed plain error by submitting to the jury the question of whether his bankruptcy petition was confirmable, or, alternatively, if the question of confirmability was properly before the jury, by failing to instruct the jury on the applicable bankruptcy statute, which authorizes a bankruptcy judge, rather than a jury, to determine whether to confirm a bankruptcy plan: contrary to the plaintiff's contention that in deliberating on the proximate cause element of his legal malpractice claim, the jury improperly ruled on the validity of his bankruptcy petition, the issue before the jury was whether the defendant or the plaintiff's acts or omissions were the proximate cause of the dismissal of the plaintiff's petition, which was a disputed factual issue to be determined by the jury; accordingly, this court refused to apply the plain error doctrine, as this case did not present the type of extraordinary situation that warrants reversal due to plain error.

James H. Howard, for the appellant (plaintiff).

Lorinda S. Coon, with whom, on the brief, were Kay A. Williams and Herbert J. Shepardson, for the appellee (named defendant).

Lavine, Keller and Harper, Js. LAVINE, J. In this opinion the other judges concurred.

OPINION

Page 829

[157 Conn.App. 385] LA ...


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