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COA reverses judgment in favor of law firm in legal malpractice case

February 24, 2017

A legal malpractice case against a northern Indiana law firm will proceed after the Indiana Court of Appeals held Friday that there was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the litigant’s original negligence claim would have succeeded but for the firm’s negligence.

While 85-year-old Elizabeth Roumbos was visiting her husband at St. Anthony’s Hospital in Lake County in January 2011, she tripped over wires that were running along the floor, resulting in a severe injury. Roumbos hired Samuel G. Vazanellis and Thiros and Stracci P.C. to represent her in a negligence case, but after the firm failed to file her complaint within the relevant statute of limitations, she filed a legal malpractice complaint against the firm.

The Lake Superior Court entered summary judgment in favor of the firm in March 2016, holding that Roumbos could not prove that but for the firm’s negligence, the outcome of the negligence suit would have been in her favor. Specifically, the trial court pointed to Roumbos’ own deposition in which she said that had she looked down, she would have seen the wire that tripped her.

But in a Friday opinion, the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed summary judgment, with Judge Edward Najam writing that the hospital owed Roumbos a duty as a business invitee. Further, Najam wrote that the law firm did not designate evidence to demonstrate that the hospital could not have reasonably anticipated that an invitee such as Roumbos could have forgotten about the dangerous condition of the wires, despite her prior knowledge, and later be injured by that condition.

Thus, the case of Elizabeth Roumbos v. Samuel G. Vazanellis and Thiros and Stracci, PC, 45A03-1606-CT-1424, was remanded for further proceedings.

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