Failure to instruct jury on “suit within a suit” leads to remand; punitive damages recoverable against lawyer, but “lost” punitives from “suit within a suit” not recoverable

by Christopher J. Graham and Joseph P. Kelly

Osborne v. Keeney, Case Nos. 2010-SC-000397-DG, 2010-SC-000430-DG (Ky. Dec 20, 2012)

Kentucky Supreme Court reversed and remanded legal malpractice case because trial court failed to instruct the jury on the suit-within-a-suit standard which requires trial court to instruct the jury as if it were trying the underlying tort case before instructing the same jury on the legal malpractice claim. Plaintiff’s legal malpractice case was based on her attorney’s failure to file suit against a pilot that crashed his plane into her house. Court also held that punitive damages are recoverable from attorney for legal malpractice, but plaintiff can’t recover as damages the “lost” punitive damages that may have been recovered in “suit-within-a-suit.”

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