Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Affair with former client's wife costs attorney $1.5 million

From Law.com:

A Mississippi attorney must pay $1.5 million for having an affair with a former client's wife.

Affirming a jury verdict in Rankin County Circuit Court, the Supreme Court of Mississippi found Ronald Henry Pierce liable to his former client, Ernest Allan Cook, who, along with his wife Kathleen Shorkey Cook, had hired Pierce to represent them and their son in a medical malpractice action. The appellate court found Pierce, a solo practitioner, liable for intentional infliction of emotional distress, breach of contract and alienation of affection.

Pierce began having an affair with Kathleen Cook in September 2000 after her husband had moved to California to pursue a film career. Ernest Cook discovered the affair and hired a private investigator. The Cooks terminated Pierce as their attorney in the medical malpractice action in December 2000 and were divorced in June 2002 on the grounds of Kathleen Cook's uncondoned adultery. Ernest Cook then filed a lawsuit against Pierce.

In June 2006, a jury granted Ernest Cook $300,000 for alienation of affection, $200,000 for breach of contract and $1 million for intentional infliction of emotional distress. The Mississippi Supreme Court on Aug. 14 rejected Pierce's argument that the statute of limitations had expired on the alienation and emotional distress claims and his argument that the breach of contract claim was actually a legal malpractice claim requiring an expert witness.

Reached by phone, Pierce said he expected an unfavorable outcome because the Supreme Court had denied his bid to present oral argument on appeal. "I knew I was going to get screwed," he said.

Pierce said that he planned to file a motion to reconsider.

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