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Ex-clients can seek emotional distress damages in legal malpractice case, top state court says

Posted Jul 22, 2013 5:15 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Iowa's top court has, for the first time, OK'd potential emotional distress damages in a legal malpractice case.

An immigration lawyer should have known that his inaccurate advice could cause severe emotional distress to his clients, an Ecuadorean couple who were separated from their children for a decade after following attorney Michael Said's instructions to leave the U.S., the Iowa Supreme Court said in a Friday decision (PDF).

It upheld an appellate court ruling that remanded the Polk County case for a new trial on emotional distress and punitive damages. The latter are allowable based on a determination that the lawyer's conduct was not merely negligent but willful and wanton.

A dissenting judge said the case is the first in which Iowa has allowed emotional distress damages in a legal malpractice case and expressed concern that it could have a chilling effect on the willingness of lawyers to practice immigration law in the state, Radio Iowa reports.

Hat tip: Courthouse News.

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