Iowa legal malpractice plaintiffs permitted to sue for emotional distress damages

by Christopher Graham and Joseph Kelly


Iowa recently joined Illinois as one of the states permitting legal malpractice plaintiffs to recover emotional distress damages in limited circumstances. See Miranda v. Said, 836 N.W.2d 8 (Iowa 2013).

Klever Miranda and Nancy Compoverde — husband and wife — retained attorney Michael Said and his law firm to help them with immigration issues. Klever and Nancy were attempting to stay in the U.S. Their son, Cesar Miranda, married a U.S. citizen, and Said advised them that they could obtain permanent resident status and eventually citizenship if they first returned to their native Ecuador. Klever and Nancy followed Said’s advice and returned to Ecuador. But Said was wrong, and Klever and Nancy were barred from returning to the U.S. and their kids for 10 years.

Klever and Nancy sued Said for legal malpractice and sought emotional distress damages. Said successfully moved for a directed verdict arguing that Klever and Nancy weren’t entitled to emotional distress damages. Klever and Nancy won a $12,500 judgment for negligence but appealed the court’s directed verdict on emotional distress damages. The appeals court reversed and remanded the case for a new trial on emotional distress damages. Said appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court.

The Iowa Supreme Court affirmed. The court noted that Iowa law doesn’t generally allow emotional distress damages unless there’s physical injury or proof of intentional conduct; but there are exceptions when emotional distress was “foreseeable” and a “particularly likely result.” Here, the Klever and Nancy were permitted to seek emotional distress damages because Said knew that Klever and Nancy’s reaction to being separated from their kids would be very emotional and a particularly likely result.

Tags: Iowa, legal malpractice, emotional distress

Category: Lawyers Malpractice Digest Comment »

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