Balto. lawyer found negligent in defending man in abuse case Client's stepdaughter had won $885,000 in court

June 03, 1998|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore lawyer has been found negligent in representing an Eastern Shore man whose stepdaughter won an $885,000 judgment against him for sexual abuse.

A Baltimore Circuit Court jury returned its verdict last week against attorney Michael P. May.

The jury found that the client, Symcha Shpak of Neavitt, near St. Michaels in Talbot County, was entitled to $500,000 for humiliation and embarrassment.

But it also found that Shpak did not deserve to get back $1.1 million -- the amount of the judgment his stepdaughter won in a Baltimore County Circuit Court case seven years ago, plus interest and legal fees.

And it said that Shpak would have been found by a county jury to owe only $200,000 if his case had been handled properly, and said Shpak should pay May $13,713 in unpaid legal fees.

City Circuit Judge Thomas E. Noel set a June 15 hearing to determine a final judgment on the jury's award, which he can change.

May's attorney, J. Paul Mullen, declined yesterday to comment on the jury's verdict.

"We're filing briefs on Friday with respect to our view on how the judge should enter judgment," he said.

Shpak's case, brought by attorney Joel G. Fradin, centered on the contention that May erred in not having expert testimony to counter a psychiatrist called by his stepdaughter in the civil sexual abuse case. The psychiatrist had testified that the stepdaughter's history of felony convictions for theft, bad checks and credit card abuse stemmed from her sexual abuse.

But Mullen said that Shpak's stepdaughter had not designated a psychiatrist until three weeks before the start of the trial, and noted that May had moved unsuccessfully for a postponement.

Mullen added that it was "complete speculation" to assume that a contrary expert opinion would have resulted in a different verdict.

Since Shpak's trial in 1991, Maryland has changed its civil rules of procedure, establishing scheduling orders that require that lawyers be notified quickly what witnesses the other side might call.

Pub Date: 6/03/98

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