Pennsylvania Attorney Takes “a Shot in the Dark” and It Costs Him $20,000

Last month a Pennsylvania lawyer, Jason Schiffman, and his law firm, Schiffman & Wojdowski, were jointly fined $20,000 for the attorney’s Rule 11 violation when he failed to fully investigate what a federal judge characterized as a “frivolous gun malfunction case”. The case involved a claim that a Beemiller Hi-Point C9 9 mm pistol exploded in the plaintiff’s hand. The plaintiff later changed his testimony and experts on both sides agreed that the incident could not have happened the way that the plaintiff initially claimed. Specifically, Schiffman alleged that “shrapnel and/or a bullet” violently struck the plaintiff’s hand, even though medical records conclusively established that the plaintiff sustained a through and through “bullet injury” to his hand.

Nevertheless, the attorney continued on with the case, explaining that he reasonably relied on his client. United States District Court Judge Allen N. Bloch was not persuaded and described the conduct as “that of an attorney who ignored red flags surrounding the veracity and plausibility of his client’s story and lodged allegations without having reasonable belief that they were grounded in fact.” That Court ultimately found that “this case was ‘a shot in the dark’ and unfortunately for Counsel, he not only missed his mark, his gun was not even loaded.”

How much should a lawyer trust a client? What are the risks of being too skeptical?

To read the memorandum opinion and order click here and here.

To read further commentary on the case click here.

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