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Appellate Litigation Clinic Persuades U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to Revive Malpractice Case

October 06, 2011

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reinstated a malpractice lawsuit on Oct. 4, siding with two former students and a professor from the law school’s Appellate Litigation Clinic.

The court ruled that a district court judge had improperly dismissed a lawsuit brought against an attorney who had not provided an expert witness to support a medical malpractice claim by Elizabeth Liggon-Redding.

The Legal Intelligencer, in an Oct. 5 article, described the outcome as “a victory for a pair of former Drexel law students and their professor who were appointed to participate as amicus.”

The case involved a pro se client whose malpractice suit against her former attorney was dismissed by a district court judge who found she had failed to file a certificate of merit.

Law school alumnae Iwona Rusek and Kristin Shicora collaborated with Professor Richard Frankel on a brief arguing that the woman had in fact satisfied the certificate of merit requirement by submitting filings that said no experts would be required to prove her claim.

The Third Circuit agreed, becoming the second federal appeals panel this year to give the clinic a victory. In May, the U.S Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reinstated a lawsuit against a recycling company in Elkhart, Ind. that had been brought by citizens represented by two students from the clinic. That ruling established a significant precedent in environmental law.

The brief in the Liggon-Redding case was “very clear and persuasive,” Frankel said, crediting Rusek in particular for her diligence in the matter.

Shicora actually argued the case before the Third Circuit in July, just two weeks before sitting for the Pennsylvania Bar Exam.

“We’d originally prepared for argument in May, so I’d been very prepared and ready,” said Shicora, who is now clerking for Judge Robert J. Mellon of the Court of Common Pleas in Bucks County. “It was still very overwhelming.”

Shicora “had great poise and she knew the case backward and forward,” Frankel said.