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  • Legal Malpractice – Wilson v. Bynum

Sommers Schwartz attorney Matthew Turner filed a legal malpractice lawsuit on behalf of a woman who claims her attorney mishandled her case for police misconduct.

After a late-night altercation at a gas station in June 2019, Amy Wilson was arrested for driving while intoxicated, carrying a concealed weapon, and malicious destruction of property. While in custody, Wilson was on the phone when another prisoner began to argue with her after he unsuccessfully attempted to make a phone call. Deputies removed the male prisoner and then demanded that Ms. Wilson get off the phone.  Ms. Wilson voluntarily ended her phone call and was not threatening any of the sheriff’s deputies when four deputies violently tackled Wilson to the ground, forcibly restrained her, dragged her to a holding cell, and slammed her head into the ground. Kent County Correctional Facility surveillance video captured the entire event.  There was no attempt to defuse the situation before Ms. Wilson was tackled by the four deputies.     

The deputies’ conduct caused injuries to Wilson’s left shoulder, upper arm, elbow, and wrist, from which she suffered pain and impairment for more than a year. She ultimately underwent two surgeries to resolve these physical issues. Wilson also suffered psychological distress, depression, anxiety, humiliation, anguish, and embarrassment.

To recover compensation for her injuries, Wilson retained attorney Tyrone Bynum. In October 2020, Bynum filed a claim under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against the Kent County Sheriff’s Department, Kent County Government, and unnamed individual officers for using excessive, unreasonable force in violation of Wilson’s constitutional rights.

Unfortunately, after filing the lawsuit, Bynum took little to no further action to prosecute Wilson’s case. Nearly a year later, he filed a motion to obtain the identities of the individual deputies, which the court denied for failing to comply with procedural rules. Bynum never properly refiled this motion, never obtained the identity of the individual deputies, never took any depositions, never filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), or conducted any other discovery in the case.  A reasonable attorney would have known that the law required that the individual sheriff deputies be identified and added to the lawsuit.        

In June 2022, Wilson’s case was dismissed with prejudice, ending her opportunity to pursue her claims against all defendants. The court determined that Bynum “acted with reckless disregard for the effect of his conduct–or omissions–on this litigation.”

Wilson alleges that Bynum’s negligence denied her the opportunity to recover the compensation she deserved from the sheriff’s department or its deputies. She claims that the attorney breached his duty of zealous representation and failed to live up to the required professional standard of care (the ordinary learning, judgment, and skill required of an attorney handling a civil rights claim under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983. 

Wilson seeks compensation for all damages she would have been awarded in her civil rights case, including compensation for her physical injuries, mental and emotional injuries, medical bills, lost earning capacity, loss of household services, punitive damages, and attorneys’ fees.

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