Wednesday, November 14, 2007


You have probably read of the lawsuit in which a man sued his tailor for millions over a lost pair of pants. Other cases appear occasionally in the news in which lawyers seem to vie for publicity by asking for astronomical damages. Such cases give lawyers a bad name and rub off on good lawyers.

Some jurisdictions, including New Mexico, have a rule that prohibits a lawyer from asking (praying)for money damages in a specific amount, and in such jurisdictions the prayer is for damages in an unspecified amount. "In such amount as the trier of fact may find." Or some such language.

Exceptions are allowed if one is pleading a jurisdictional amount ($25,000 to get into this Court, for example.) or if one is pleading a specific liquidated amount, such as the amount specified in a contract.

A young girl in New Mexico was rendered a paraplegic by a drunk driver a few years ago, and her lawyer unwittingly, in violation of the rule, prayed in his complaint for a million dollars in damages. The insurance defense lawyer cited the rule and demanded that the case be dismissed. It was nip and tuck, but the plaintiff's error was excused.

A wise person said "The law is common sense, put in good grammar." Rules can be helpful if not hyper-technical. Few lawyers are dishonest; and few are sharp practioners, is our experience.