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  • Legal Malpractice – Property Improperly Taken for 18th Hole of Golf Course After Law Firm Takes No Action: New Products Corp. v. Butzel Long

Sommers Schwartz attorneys Matthew Turner and David Black filed a legal malpractice lawsuit on behalf of a Benton Harbor company whose land was wrongfully appropriated and incorporated into the 18th hole of a neighboring golf course after their attorneys took no action to protect its rights.

According to the complaint, the plaintiff owned a 4.3 acre, 250-foot wide property adjacent to its Benton Harbor manufacturing facility since 1955 (the “Property”). After the plaintiff learned in 2008 that a neighboring property owner was planning to build a golf course that would improperly include the Property, it immediately contacted the defendant law firm for representation and assistance with protecting its rights. The law firm confirmed its engagement in writing, and the plaintiff paid a $2,500 retainer for its services. 

As the golf course development was proceeding rapidly, including imminent construction on the Property, the plaintiff emphasized to its attorney the need for urgent and immediate action to halt the activity.  Meanwhile, construction on the Property proceeded apace.

Despite the plaintiff’s repeated pleas to the law firm to prepare and file a complaint to stop further construction, the law firm never filed litigation to protect the plaintiff’s rights, telling the plaintiff that the statute of limitations and other issues barred its claims. It provided this information after failing to file the requested lawsuit and after the construction on the 18th hole was essentially completed. 

Not only did the law firm bill the plaintiff almost $100,000 to advise the company it had no claim, but the firm’s analysis was incorrect. After hiring a new law firm to pursue litigation and vindicate its rights, the plaintiff prevailed on the legal issues that the defendant law firm contended barred their claims. However, the plaintiff lost its case because the trial judge ruled that the delay in filing suit – which was entirely due to the defendant’s legal malpractice – was unreasonable, a ruling the Michigan Court of Appeals later affirmed. 

The plaintiff seeks compensation from the law firm for its loss of the Property, legal fees paid, and other damages.

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