Legal Ethics

Lawyer Must Pay $1.5M Verdict for Affair With Client’s Wife

Solo practitioner Ronald Henry Pierce of Mississippi will have to pay a $1.5 million verdict against him for having an affair with a client’s wife, the Mississippi Supreme Court has ruled.

The court affirmed the verdict for intentional infliction of emotional distress, breach of contract and alienation of affection in an Aug. 14 opinion (PDF), the National Law Journal (sub. req.) reports.

Ernest Allan Cook and his wife, Kathleen, had hired Pierce to represent them and their son in a medical malpractice case in 1997. At the time, Pierce was practicing law in an Oxford firm, but it later disbanded and Pierce moved his practice in Pearl.

Pierce had an affair with Kathleen after her husband moved to California in 2000, the opinion says. The Cooks later divorced, and Pierce married Kathleen. Ernest Cook sued Pierce in 2002.

Pierce told the National Law Journal he expected to lose the case because he wasn’t allowed to present oral argument on appeal. “I knew I was going to get screwed,” he said. He plans to file a motion to reconsider.

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