Professional Malpractice


     Yules & Yules represents attorneys and law firms in legal malpractice actions and grievance matters. As these sensitive cases involve one’s professional standing, we exercise the utmost discretion in handling them.

     Legal malpractice claims are complex. To prevail, a plaintiff must establish (1) the existence of an attorney-client relationship; (2) the attorney’s wrongful act or omission; (3) causation; and (4) damages. To prove causation, a plaintiff must establish the “case within a case,” which requires proof that the claim underlying the malpractice action would have been successful had the defendant attorney acted in accordance with his / her duty. The foregoing requires defense counsel to be knowledgeable about legal malpractice law and the underlying legal claim. Accordingly, these actions require a more seasoned defense counsel than other cases.

     Robert Yules has practiced law for over thirty years and is a member of the Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers (APRL) and a former member of the Committee of Professional Ethics (1993-2000) of the Connecticut Bar Association. Additionally, Attorney Yules regularly attends the ABA’s Legal Malpractice Seminar and the Professional Liability Roundtable sponsored by the International Association of Defense Counsel (IADC).

     Yules & Yules advocates resolving legal malpractice cases by confidential alternative dispute resolution (ADR), i.e., by binding arbitration or voluntary mediation. As trial by jury is public, time consuming, costly and unpredictable in outcome, ADR is a welcomed alternative for many clients. ADR provides a means by which parties to a lawsuit can resolve their case in a predictable and expeditious manner.

     However, should trial be necessary, you can rest assured that your interests will be well represented by Attorney Yules. As the co-author of the first edition and sole author of the second edition of Connecticut Trial Practice, published by West Publishing Company. This 600 page treatise, written for the bench and bar, describes the court rules and procedures of a trial from jury selection to post verdict motions.

In Connecticut the Doctrine of Absolute Immunity Applies in Lawsuits Against Attorneys

     In Robert Simms v. Penny Q. Seaman, et al, 129 Conn. App. 651 (2011), the plaintiff sought to recover damages from his former wife, the defendant S, and the defendant former attorneys for S, for fraud and intentional infliction of emotional distress in connection with the failure of the defendant attorneys to disclose S’s true financial circumstances during the course of post-dissolution proceedings.

     Specifically, the plaintiff alleged that although the defendant attorneys knew that S had become the beneficiary of a substantial bequest from her uncle, they had represented that she was in highly disadvantaged economic circumstances and that the plaintiff should be compelled to pay substantial sums of money to her for her support and maintenance.

     The trial court granted the motions by the defendant attorneys to strike counts one through six of the revised complaint and, thereafter, granted their motions for judgment and rendered judgment thereon, from which the plaintiff appealed to the Connecticut Appellate Court. He claimed that the trial court improperly struck the claims for fraud and intentional infliction of emotional distress filed against the defendant attorneys on the ground of absolute immunity (aka the “litigation privilege”).

     The Appellate Court held that the trial court properly granted the motions to strike filed by the defendant attorneys and concluded that the claims against the attorneys for conduct that occurred during judicial proceedings were barred as a matter of law by the doctrine of absolute immunity. The plaintiff’s claim that the defendants should not be afforded immunity for their fraud on the court was unavailing as Connecticut does not recognize a cause of action for “fraud on the court” under the circumstances. The actions complained of by the plaintiff, that the defendant attorneys misstated or failed to state material facts in circumstances when they were required to do so and that such conduct resulted in the defrauding of the plaintiff, involved conduct similar to the making of defamatory statements in court proceedings, which have been determined not to be actionable under the doctrine of absolute immunity. The Appellate Court reasoned that there is a strong public policy that seeks to ensure that attorneys provide full and robust representation to their clients and that they provide their clients with unrestricted and undivided loyalty. If a cause of action might inhibit such representation, there must be built-in restraints to prevent unwarranted litigation, and such restraints were not present in the case here.


Jury Exonerates Psychiatrist Accused of Causing Patient’s Death by Failing to Monitor Lithium Level; Plaintiff’s Expert Psychiatrist Disciplined for False Testimony

     In Debbie Ahern, Adm. of the Estate of John A. Ahern v. John Doe, M.D., it was alleged that the defendant psychiatrist’s negligent monitoring of the decedent’s lithium level had caused the decedent’s demise. Plaintiff’s counsel consulted psychiatrist #1 to ascertain if the named defendant’s treatment of the decedent met the prevailing standard of care. After reviewing the decedent’s medical records, psychiatrist #1 concluded that violations had occurred and prepared a four page single spaced letter detailing them.

     As psychiatrist #1 was dependent upon physician referrals, he declined to be named as the plaintiff’s expert in the subsequent lawsuit. Accordingly, plaintiff’s counsel consulted and retained psychiatrist #2, who agreed to prepare a report and testify in court against the named defendant.

     During the course of discovery plaintiff’s counsel inadvertently provided the report of psychiatrist #1 with that of psychiatrist #2 to defense counsel, Robert B. Yules. While Attorney Yules was outlining the reports of psychiatrists #1 and #2, they fell on the floor. In picking them up he noticed that they appeared similar. With the use of colored markers, he determined that the reports were reverse mirror images of one another, i.e., paragraph 1 of the report of psychiatrist #1 was the last paragraph of the report of psychiatrist #2, word-for-word.

     At his deposition, psychiatrist #2 testified that he did not confer with anyone in the preparation of his report and it was his own creation. Thus, the delicate issue became how to show the Court and jury that psychiatrist #2’s report was that of psychiatrist #1. With the aid of a professional exhibit maker each sentence of psychiatrist #2’s report was reproduced on a board followed by its page, paragraph and sentence number. Below it was reproduced the corresponding sentence from psychiatrist #1’s report with its location information. Psychiatrist #1’s sentence and position info was hidden by a board secured with Velcro.

     At trial on cross examination by Attorney Yules, psychiatrist #2 testified that he prepared his report without input from anyone. When asked about a particular sentence, he stated how he composed it. Then, Attorney Yules would unmask the corresponding sentence of psychiatrist #1’s report showing that the sentences of the two reports were identical. After filling the courtroom with 15 poster size boards it was evident that psychiatrist # 2 was not being truthful.

     It took the jury less than an hour to find the defendant not negligent in the treatment of the plaintiff’s decedent. After the jury was dismissed, the Court on motion of defense counsel had psychiatrist #2 bound over for perjury prosecution by the Office of the State’s Attorney, Connecticut’s prosecutorial attorneys.

     As a result of a criminal investigation, psychiatrist #2 negotiated a plea deal. In return for not being criminally prosecuted, psychiatrist #2 agreed to post a sign in his office telling patients that he was under scrutiny by the authorities, was required to donate $10,000 to charity, and had to perform 500 hours of community service.