DeKalb legislator told to pay $635,000 for legal malpractice
By JIM WALLS
State Rep. Randal Mangham (right) should pay $625,000 in damages for legal malpractice, a DeKalb County jury concluded today.
The jury awarded $435,000 in compensatory damages to plaintiff Karen Smith, a former client of Mangham’s, and $190,000 to her lawyers for attorney’s fees.
That’s more than double the $293,000 Smith was awarded in a 2005 trial of the case. Mangham did not pay that judgment and won a new trial last year.
The jury did not award punitive damages. But, as the foreman said in court, “It still hurts.”
State Court Judge Edward Carriere Jr., addressing attorneys afterward, said the verdict seemed like a “win-win” situation. “It’s not punitive damages so it’s nothing that can’t be shed through bankruptcy,” he said.
The 2005 jury award included $175,000 in punitive damages. Georgia law does not allow a defendant to avoid responsibility for punitive damages with a bankruptcy filing.
Afterward, jurors told attorneys they were disturbed by Mangham’s failure to respond to legal papers filed by an insurer’s attorney denying blame in the accident, as well as his failure to properly serve representatives of the church with the suit. That led to the church, which had closed, being dropped from the case.