As mentioned last week, mega firm Baker & McKenzie won a reversal on causation and damages last week of the $103 million Jones County legal malpractice verdict against the firm. Now for the bad news for Baker & McKenzie.
Justice Pierce wrote the majority opinion. All nine Mississippi Supreme Court Justices agreed that the plaintiffs and cross-plaintiffs proved liability against Baker & McKenzie. This point was emphasized in Justice Randolph’s concurring-dissenting opinion:
I agree with my fellow justices’ unanimous concurrence that the jury presented ample evidence to impose liability on the defendants.
All nine justices agreed that a new trial is necessary as to damages on the plaintiffs’ claims, which represented $81 million of the verdict. Four justices (Randolph, Kitchens, Chandler and King) would have affirmed the verdict of $22.4 million for the cross-plaintiffs.
I guess that theoretically Baker & McKenzie could still win the case on re-trial on the issue of causation, but I would not take even money on that bet. Baker & McKenzie is a big underdog in the re-trial.
As to damages, they would be big. The case involves a business dispute over lucrative oil wells. If the plaintiffs win, then the verdict is almost guaranteed to be high. That’s just math.
This case should settle for an amount that leaves the plaintiffs and cross-plaintiffs satisfied.
In my next post I will discuss the reason for the reversal: errors in jury instructions.