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Having a Baby No Excuse for Missing Court – Legal Malpractice Post

Having a Baby No Excuse for Missing Court – Legal Malpractice Post

A Texas lawyer who missed a court hearing because he was on paternity leave doesn’t get a second chance according to the Texas Court of Appeals.

Haroon Hashmi is a lawyer in Dallas. Looking at his resume and accomplishments, he is a good lawyer. But any good lawyer will tell you that sometimes mistakes happen.

According to court records, Hashmi represented Texas General Hospital in a dispute with Xtant Medical, a designer of custom made spinal implants. Xtant says the hospital owed it over $500,000 for devices it had sold to the hospital. Evidently Texas General wasn’t thrilled with the goods they purchased and balked at full payment.

Xtant fasked the court for a quick win and said no trial was necessary. Courts can consider a case on “summary judgment” if no facts are in dispute.  Did Xtant have a slam dunk case? We will never know.

The hearing was scheduled for February 11, 2019 but Hashmi didn’t show. With no one present representing the hospital to oppose the motion, the court ruled in Xtant’s favor.

Where was Hashmi? Having a baby! That is, his wife was having a baby.

Texas General appealed after learning that the court had ordered it to pay for the devices. According to the appeal, Hashmi claims that he failed to appear because he was out on paternity leave and evidently, no one in office calendared the hearing date or sought a continuance.

On July 28, 2020, a three judge panel of the Texas Court of Appeals refused to reopen the case. In a short opinion, the court said that Hashmi never sought a continuance nor asked the trial judge for reconsideration.

At the time the mistake was made, it appears that Hashmi was working for himself. Often we see missed deadlines in small firms where coverage issues can be difficult. If you are working at a firm with a dozen lawyers, there should always be someone present to see court notices, calendar hearing dates and make sure someone appears in court or secures a continuance.

The finding by the Court of Appeals doesn’t mean Haroon Hashmi is guilty of legal malpractice. We suspect, however, that the hospital will make a claim on Hashmi’s malpractice.

Much has been written about lawyers who missed filing deadlines. Missing a court hearing can also be devastating for a client. In this case, because no one appeared, the court entered judgment against the hospital. Whether or not they had a valid reason not to pay for the implants is now moot.

The case is also important in that it suggests that even after missing the hearing, had Hashmi asked the trial judge for a second chance, it might have been granted. Instead, Hashmi went directly to the appeals court.

My Lawyer Missed a Deadline, Now What?

Missed deadlines happen. It is every lawyer’s fear. If your lawyer missed a critical deadline, the first thing to do is to see if it can be fixed. Often it can.

Most courts give lawyers a second chance upon a showing of excusable neglect. Although not defined, most judges apply common sense.

  • How many times has the lawyer missed a deadline?”
  • Was the lawyer sick (or having a baby)?
  • Did the lawyer’s server crash?
  • Was the firm’s case management system hacked (and if so, was it reported to the police)?

As noted above, the appeals court suggests that Hashmi may have been granted a “redo” if he had asked. He didn’t and apparently filed an appeal instead.

If your lawyer is able to correct the situation, there is no problem. Even if fixed, however, we think you should meet with your lawyer to learn firsthand what went wrong and what steps are being taken to keep the problem from repeating.

If your lawyer is showing signs of addiction or uncontrolled depression, it may be time to find a new lawyer.

If the problem can’t be fixed, consider hiring an experienced legal malpractice lawyer immediately. In many states, clients only have one year to bring a claim. Even if you have longer, memories fade, witnesses move and evidence gets misplaced.

Hiring a legal malpractice lawyer can be a bit pricey but it beats collecting nothing. The good news is that contingent fees are common but the percentages are often higher than the typical 33.3%. That’s because the lawyer has to prevail in two different cases.

Case-in-a-Case

Missing a deadline is classic malpractice. That isn’t always as simple sounds, however.

Assuming you can prove that your lawyer violated the standard of care owed to you, he or she must still prove that the original case had merit. Let’s use the Texas General Hospital as an example. Simply because Hashmi missed a critical hearing doesn’t mean the hospital would have won if he was there.

Perhaps the devices really were defective. If they were then there is likely no damages. Your lawyer may have missed an important deadline but that doesn’t mean that you would have won your lawsuit or how much you would have won.

Are You the Victim of Legal Malpractice?

Missed deadlines and other attorney errors cost clients millions of dollars each year. Our legal malpractice team and our network of partners throughout the United States are standing by to help you. For more information, please visit our legal malpractice and missed deadlines information pages.

Want to know if you have a case? Contact us online, by email [hidden email] or by phone 877-858-8018. All inquiries are protected by the attorney client privilege and kept confidential. There is never a charge for a consultation and our services are often available on a contingent (“success”) basis.

Whatever you do, don’t delay.

 

 

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