Georgia Supreme Court finds error in legal malpractice trial

The Georgia Supreme Court has found a critical error in instructions given to a federal jury in Augusta that awarded damages of $700,000 in a legal malpractice case.


In an opinion released Tues­day, the court found that a jury was incorrectly told it could consider the defendant’s wealth in determining damages.

Justices were asked by the federal appeals court to rule on that issue before the 11th U.S. Court of Appeals can decide on the appeal filed by James R. Holland II, an Alabama attorney. He was sued by client Steven N. Cavi­ness after missing a critical deadline in Caviness’ civil claim against CSX Trans­portation, which was thrown out. Caviness was reportedly injured in a 2004 accident involving a train in Alabama.

Caviness’ malpractice claim was transferred to U.S. Dis­trict Court in Augusta, where a jury awarded him damages in a 2011 trial presided over by Judge J. Randal Hall.

The Supreme Court said that in such cases, a defendant’s financial holdings haven’t been a jury issue since 1987.

The federal jury was told that Holland earned $1 million in 2010 and that he owned a $1.5 million home, a boat, and BMW and Lexus vehicles.

Augusta man receives $700,000 judgment from lawsuit