Reliance on cultural norms leads lawyer to act without full instructions
In his article “Manage Malpractice Risk by Recognizing Cultural Diversity“, Lorne Shelson (Litigation Director & Counsel in the Specialty Claims Department at LAWPRO) gives five ‘culturally-based’ claims scenarios loosely based on real LAWPRO claims.
Here is one scenario:
A man retained a lawyer to commence a medical malpractice lawsuit. The man believed that his wife had died because she had been not properly diagnosed with a heart condition. The lawyer commenced an action on behalf of the man and his daughter against the doctor and hospital.
Unable to secure helpful expert reports to support his claim, the lawyer recommended to the man that the action be settled on the basis of a dismissal without costs. The lawyer took instructions from the father only, who was a member of a patriarchal community where fathers commonly spoke on behalf of female family members. In consideration of the clients’ cultural background, the lawyer had not confirmed with the daughter that her father had her authority to provide instructions on her behalf. The daughter, who had not been consulted about the settlement, later refused to execute the settlement documentation. The doctor and hospital obtained an order enforcing the settlement.
The daughter made a claim against the lawyer for acting without her instructions.
This article appeared in the September 2014 “The Changing Face of the Profession” issue of LAWPRO Magazine. All past LAWPRO Magazine articles can be found at
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