Cecala v. Newman

Decision Date02 May 2007
Docket NumberNo. CV 04-02612-PHX-NVW.,CV 04-02612-PHX-NVW.
Citation532 F.Supp.2d 1118
PartiesRenee CECALA, Plaintiff, v. David B. NEWMAN; Cooperman Levitt Winikoff Lester & Newman, P.C., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Arizona

Kraig J. Marton, David N. Farren, Jaburg & Wilk PC, Phoenix, AZ; for Plaintiff

Brian Holohan, Brian Holohan Ltd., Phoenix, AZ, foe Defendants.

ORDER

NEIL V. WAKE, District Judge.

                                                       Table of Contents
                   I.  Factual Background ............................................................1129
                       A.  NationsBank ...............................................................1130
                           1.  The Underlying Employment Dispute .....................................1130
                           2.  Retaining Lawyer Newman ...............................................1130
                           3.  Mitigation of Damages .................................................1130
                           4.  Litigation Strategy ...................................................1131
                       B.  NASD Arbitration ..........................................................1131
                       C.  Cecala's Relationship with Newman .........................................1132
                       D.  Malpractice Litigation ....................................................1132
                  II.  Summary Judgment Standard .....................................................1132
                 III.  Legal Malpractice in Arizona ..................................................1133
                       A.  Two Theories of Malpractice Liability .....................................1133
                       B.  A Prima Facie Case ........................................................1134
                           1.  Cognizable Injury .....................................................1134
                           2.  Attorney.  Negligence Malpractice .....................................1134
                           3.  Fiduciary Breach Malpractice ..........................................1134
                       C.  Trial Methodology .........................................................1134
                       D.  Causation .................................................................1135
                           1.  "But-For" Causation ...................................................1136
                           2.  Proximate Causation and Foreseeability of the Injury ..................1137
                           3.  But-For Causation and Proximate Causation in Litigation
                                 Malpractice .........................................................1138
                                i.  Subversion of the But-For Causation Requirement ..................1138
                               ii.  The Judgment Error Rule, Speculativeness, and Lack of
                                      Foreseeability .................................................1139
                           4.  Fiduciary Breach Malpractice ..........................................1140
                  IV.  Cecala's Second Amended Complaint .............................................1140
                   V.  Negligent Supervision .........................................................1141
                  VI.  Statute of Limitations ........................................................1142
                       A.  The Amfac Cases: Errors in Litigation .....................................1142
                       B.  Amfac Does Not Apply to Non-Litigation Injury .............................1143
                       C.  "Unsound Mind" Tolling Does Not Apply .....................................1144
                
                           1.  The Meaning of "Unsound Mind" .........................................1144
                           2.  Quantum of Evidence to Defeat Summary Judgment ........................1144
                           3.  Insufficient Evidence of Inability to Understand Legal Rights .........1146
                           4.  Insufficient Evidence of Inability to Manage Daily Affairs ............1147
                                 i.  Expert Affidavits ...............................................1148
                                     a.  Dr.  Rutter .................................................1148
                                     b.  Dr.  Harrison ...............................................1148
                                     c.  Dr.  Wilson .................................................1149
                                ii.  Declarations of Family and Friends ..............................1149
                                     a.  1999 ........................................................1150
                                     b.  2000 ........................................................1150
                                     c.  2001  .......................................................1151
                                     d.  2002 ........................................................1151
                               iii.  Rule 56(e) Declarations .........................................1151
                           5.  Conclusion ............................................................1152
                       D.  Equitable Tolling Is Unwarranted ..........................................1153
                 VII.  Causation .....................................................................1153
                       A.  Cecala's Theory of Causation Is Insufficient ..............................1153
                       B.  Procedural Issues .........................................................1155
                           1.  Newman Carried His Initial Burden under Rule 56(c) ....................1155
                           2.  Cecala's Supplemental Expert Affidavit Was Untimely ...................1156
                       C.  Causation Evidence from Elliot's Affidavits ...............................1158
                           1.  Newman's "Ineffective Representation" .................................1158
                           2.  Improper Selection of and Hostile Attitude Toward the NASD
                                 Arbitrators .........................................................1159
                           3.  Inadequate Discovery: Failure to File with the EEOC ...................1160
                           4.  Loss of a Procedural Advantage: Foregoing Litigation ..................1161
                           5.  Termination of the Representation .....................................1162
                       D.  Other Evidence of Causation ...............................................1163
                           1.  Hostile Work Environment Sexual Harassment Claim ......................1163
                           2.  Disparate Treatment Claim .............................................1164
                           3.  Evidence of Litigation Injury from Sexual Relationship ................1164
                VIII.  Failure to Assert Retaliation .................................................1165
                       A.  Retaliatory Acts ..........................................................1165
                       B.  Constructive Discharge ....................................................1166
                           1.  Prima Fade Case for Constructive Discharge ............................1167
                           2.  The Omitted Allegation of Constructive Discharge Is Not
                                 Economically Viable .................................................1168
                       C.  Failure to Mitigate .......................................................1169
                       D.  Lost Opportunity to Recover Nominal Damages at a Net Loss to the
                             Client Is Not Actionable Malpractice ....................................1169
                

Pending before the court are Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment and Statement of Facts, as amended ("DSOF") (Doc. ## 171, 172, 246); Plaintiffs Response and Statement of Facts, as amended ("PSOF") (Doc. ## 193, 188, 220); and Defendants' Reply (Doc. # 206).

Also before the court are Plaintiff's Notice of Filing (Doc. # 224) and Defendants' Motion to Strike Cecala Declaration and Elliot Supplemental Affidavit (Doc. # 227). The court has reviewed the parties' supplemental memoranda (Doc. ## 228, 229, 230) and the responses thereto (Doc. ## 236, 237, 238).

I. Factual Background

Construing the evidence in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, and drawing all reasonable inferences in her favor, the admissible evidence shows the following.

A. NationsBank

This is an action for legal malpractice arising out of an employment dispute between Plaintiff Renee Cecala ("Cecala") and her former employer, NationsBank ("Bank"), now Bank of America. Cecala began working for NationsBank in Charlotte, North Carolina in June 1994. (PSOF 19-20; DSOF Ex. 3, 4.) Cecala worked at various times in the capital markets, mortgage financing, and mortgage sales divisions of the Bank. (PSOF 19-20.)

1. The Underlying Employment Dispute

Cecala contends that NationsBank discriminated against her because of her sex. (Id. at 20.) She "was not compensated fairly, compared to others similarly situated at the Bank, and at other like institutions," and was denied promotions and deprived of human resources by Bank management. (Id. at 20-23; Ex. 18 at 2.) Cecala believes that she "flourished and even fostered growth and prosperity within two distinct departments" despite the "woefully inadequate support and resources she received." (Id. Ex 18 at 2.) In addition to general underpayment and lack of resources, Cecala alleges that she was "victimized by sexual harassment [and] a hostile work environment" at NationsBank. (Doc. # 193 at 3; PSOF 23-24.) The Bank's "oppressive and hostile work environment ... caused her great physical and emotional distress." (Id. Ex. 18 at 2.)

From 1994 through 1996, Cecala lodged complaints with senior Bank management about "compensation, promotions, and resources," but NationsBank did not address her concerns. (Id. at 21.)

2. Retaining Lawyer Newman

In January 1997, Cecala hired New York attorney David B. Newman of the law firm of Cooperman Levitt Winikoff Lester & Newman, P.C. ("Cooperman Levitt"), to represent her in negotiations with Nations-Bank. (Doc. # 171 at 3.) Newman sent a letter to the president of NationsBank Capital Markets on February 20, 1997, briefly describing Cecala's concerns and expressing his desire "to discuss this matter with you with the hope of resolving these issues short...

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