Katharine Jensen, Robert Zavaglia net legal malpractice trial win.

TAM associate Katharine A. Jensen and shareholder Robert J. Zavaglia, Jr., obtained a defense judgment in their client’s favor in a legal malpractice suit concerning an underlying divorce case.

TAM’s client represented the wife in her divorce from a Denver attorney.  The attorney, whose practice had been significantly impacted by the Great Recession, was hit with a maintenance award in the wife’s favor based on his pre-recession earnings.  The husband was, however, allowed to schedule a hearing under Colorado appellate precedent to revisit his maintenance obligation several years after permanent orders entered in the event his income level did not recover and the maintenance award was untenable.

In the intervening time, the presiding judge over the permanent orders rotated off the domestic docket and a new judge rotated on in time for the hearing.  The husband’s practice never fully recovered and, at the hearing, the new judge ruled that the wife had received an exceptional allocation of the marital estate through the initial permanent orders and years of maintenance, and terminated the maintenance award.  She then sued TAM’s client, claiming the maintenance award termination was a result not of an objective analysis of her share of the marital estate, but a breach of the standard of care in preparing her for the second hearing and presentation of evidence of her standard of living.

The plaintiff failed to make a jury demand and, shortly before trial and over her objection, the defense withdrew their own jury demand to proceed to a bench trial in January of 2016.  After the conclusion of evidence and closing statements, the Court took the matter under advisement and requested proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law from the parties.

On May 13, the Court issued its final Order on the matter adopting the defense’s proposals and fully rendering judgment in the defendant’s favor.  In addition, the Court awarded TAM’s client the wife’s unpaid-but-owed legal fees from the underlying representation on a breach of contract counterclaim, which naturally flowed from his having met the applicable standard of care in the divorce representation.

A copy of the Court’s Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Order can be found here.