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Lawyer Gets New Trial on Claim He Had No Authority for $350K Deal; Jury Would Have Awarded $9M

Posted Apr 26, 2012 7:12 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A California trial lawyer is getting a second chance after he agreed to settle his brain-injured client’s case for $350,000 shortly before jurors revealed they planned to award $9.4 million.

Lawyer C. Michael Alder argued he quickly agreed to the settlement without conferring with his client. On Wednesday, Judge Michael Johnson of Los Angeles gave Alder an opportunity for a retrial and set a Jan. 28 date, the National Law Journal reports. But the judge also allowed defense lawyers to file a counterclaim over the settlement negotiations.

Alder likely suspected a defense verdict when jurors announced during the January trial that they had reached a decision after four hours of deliberations, the NLJ says. He quickly reached a settlement, but it was not put on the record or in writing before lawyers learned of the planned verdict.

At that point, according to an on-the-record statement by Judge Johnson, "all hell broke loose. Mr. Alder was yelling in the hallway, came into the courtroom and he was yelling in the courtroom. At one point he told me to call the jurors back and take the verdict. It was chaos." After a recess, Alder said his client had not approved the deal.

Alder's client is a developmentally disabled man who suffered brain injuries in a fall from an ambulance.

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