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"Kung Fu Panda" and A Lawyers Responsibility

Have you ever gone to a lawyer and had the lawyer tell you that he or she needed to conduct a preliminary investigation of your claim before taking the case? There's a very good reason why this should and does occur.

There are multiple procedural and ethical rules guiding a lawyers behavior, but Rule 3.1 of the Supreme Judicial Court Rules of professional conduct provides that a lawyer shall not bring a claim or raise a defense that does not have a good faith basis or is not frivolous. Other rules provide that an attorneys signature on a pleading constitutes a representation that a statement is made in good faith.

Well; here comes the Panda. As reported this week in Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, turns out that a highly regarded Massachusetts Intellectual Property lawfirm filed a case on behalf of it's client against DreamWorks Animation. Seems they claimed that DreamWorks had stolen his work by using a character he created in the popular film. Two and a half years later, the case was summarily dismissed by the federal court judge. This was after an estimated $5million in legal fees and other expenses had been racked up by both sides as reported by MLW.

Turns out that DreamWorks defense firm performed a backround investigation of the Plaintiff and discovered that he had a criminal record that included at least four assault convictions, and convictions for malicious destruction of property and cruelty to animals! The defense firm also proved that the plaintiff had traced his purported work from a "Lion King" coloring book. Apparently, during the course of the litigation, the plaintiff lawfirm accused the defense firm of unprofessional conduct, particularly for conducting the investigation!

Of course, many questions are raised by the case, including the issue of the fee agreement between the plaintiff and his lawfirm and whether or not the firm behaved the way it did because of the risk associated with the case; why it took 2.5 years to litigate the case; issues of lawyer civility and of course, the responsibility of counsel to investigate the legitimacy of his or her case.

So; the Panda won and the plaintiffs' lawyers lost; big time! When your lawyer tells you he wants to investigate your claims, now you know why.

Bruce

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