Pipkin v. Glenn
Client Alleged Attorneys Abandoned Retaliation Claim
Labor and Employment | Discrimination | Race Discrimination | Legal Profession | Attorney Malpractice
- Superior Court
- New Haven J.D., at New Haven
- Jan 29 2013 (Date Decided)
- Blue, J.
To prevail on a claim that counsel failed to brief or to argue a legal claim, a plaintiff must prove causation and damages. In the underlying case, the plaintiff, who is African-American, alleged that she filed a complaint with the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities and received a negative employee performance evaluation. She also alleged that her employer, the Bridgeport Board of Education, involuntarily transferred her from a job as a mathematics resources teacher to a job teaching sixth grade. The District Court found that there was no adverse employment action, because the plaintiff's salary and benefits remained the same, and that the plaintiff passed up the chance to revert to a non-classroom assignment or to teach only mathematics. The District Court concluded that the plaintiff failed to establish race discrimination led to the transfer. The 2nd Circuit affirmed. In the present action, the plaintiff sued her attorneys, Marc Glenn and W. Martyn Philpot, alleging that they did not brief or argue her retaliation claim. To prevail in an attorney-malpractice action, the plaintiff must prove: 1.) the existence of an attorney-client relationship; 2.) the attorney committed a wrongful act or omission; 3.) causation; and 4.) damages. Here, the plaintiff cannot prevail unless she proves that the defendants' negligence, if any, proximately caused her loss. The plaintiff did not allege that the defendants failed to submit pertinent evidence. All the evidence that the plaintiff would have presented in connection with a retaliation claim was, in fact, presented in connection with the Title VII claim. "Because the legal standards applicable to claims of retaliation were, at the time, identical to those governing [the plaintiff's] failed Title VII claim," wrote the court, "a retaliation claim pursued by the defendants on her behalf would have suffered exactly the same fate." The Superior Court found that the plaintiff could not have succeeded on a retaliation claim in the underlying action. The plaintiff was unable to prove causation or damages in her malpractice suit as a result of the alleged abandonment of the retaliation claim, and the court granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment.