Sarasota, Florida - Partners from the prestigious law firm Williams Parker Harrison Dietz & Getzen are no strangers to Sarasota courtrooms, but in a legal malpractice trial that began this week they are not representing clients. They are the clients.
The firm, founded in 1925, is fighting a legal malpractice suit before Judge Charlie Roberts brought by Michael and Teresa Basnight, a local doctor and his wife alleging the 48-lawyer firm provided inadequate legal counsel leading to the purchase of an office building that was later foreclosed on. Michael Braga of the Sarasota Herald Tribune provides a great summary of yesterday's opening statements and more background on the complicated case.
Williams Parker obviously denies the charges, and it's always fascinating when prominent members of the legal community look to find representation themselves. In this case, the Sarasota firm looked to the Tampa office of Phelps Dunbar, which with a 23-person professional liability practice group and offices across the southeast, certainly qualifies as a "big gun." According to the Herald Tribune, Jessica Alley, a partner in the Tampa office, delivered opening statements.
The plaintiffs are represented by Andrew Seiden of Seiden, Alder & Matthewman, P.A., a 7-person firm which, founded in 1998, is slightly younger than the 86-year old pillar of the Sarasota legal community they're taking on in Judge Robert's courtroom.
CVN is webcasting the full two-week trial of Tibar v. Williams, gavel-to-gavel. With this many top-shelf lawyers squaring off in the courtroom, along with the financial stakes and seeing Sarasota’s oldest law firm on the stand, this should be anything but your average legal malpractice trial.
The case is Tibar LLC v. Williams Parker, Case No. 2008 CA 018070 NC in the 12th Judicial Circuit Court of Florida.