Marvin Ellin, one of Baltimore's most visible medical malpractice lawyers, was cleared of legal malpractice charges by a Baltimore County Circuit Court jury Friday.
The decision, announced around 6:30 p.m., came after five days of testimony, said Judge Thomas J. Bollinger, the presiding judge.
"I am greatly relieved and somewhat dismayed at having been put through this," Mr. Ellin said.
The civil suit against Mr. Ellin was filed by the husband and four RTC children of Cherie M. Bishop, 53, of Middle River, who died 24 hours after entering Beebe Hospital in Lewes, Del., in June 1986.
James E. Bishop Sr. and his children accused Mr. Ellin of legal malpractice for not filing a claim against the hospital within Delaware's two-year time limit.
"We investigated it," Mr. Ellin said. "There was no malpractice. The jury deliberated for exactly an hour and 10 minutes and found there was no malpractice on the part of Beebe Hospital, and there was no legal malpractice in this case.
"These are outrageous allegations made by [James] Bishop," he said.
The Bishops' Rockville attorney, Edward Greensfelder Jr., was out of town and could not be reached for comment. Attempts to reach Mr. Bishop were unsuccessful.
Mrs. Bishop, who had a history of kidney stones and heart trouble, was traveling to Ocean City with her daughter on June 18, 1986, when she was overcome by pain.
The dispute was whether Mrs. Bishop died from a heart condition or from an infection of the bloodstream caused by the kidney stones, as the Bishops alleged.
The Bishop family charged that the hospital did not respond early enough with an antibiotic to treat the infection.
But the hospital said Mrs. Bishop showed no signs of an infection until less than an hour before she died.
According to the lawsuit, Mr. Ellin agreed in November 1987 to represent the Bishops in a wrongful-death action for $750, plus a percentage of the award, and said the case was strong.
Mr. Ellin denied that he ever signed such an agreement with Mr. Bishop.
Meanwhile, the statue of limitations ran out, preventing the family from suing the Delaware hospital.
The Bishops filed suit and sought compensatory damages from Mr. Ellin as a substitute for what the family believed it would have won had it sued Beebe Hospital -- more than $100,000 for Mrs. Bishop's pain and suffering and more than $500,000 for wrongful death and mental anguish.
It was the fourth time Mr. Ellin could recall having a malpractice suit brought against him since he began practicing law in 1953, he said. He has never lost such a suit, he said.
"I have never had a jury turn a verdict against me" as a defendant in a malpractice case, Mr. Ellin said.
"If you're practicing law today, it is a statistical truth that you will run into a Mr. Bishop during your career. I am delighted that it is over."