Can a Lawyer Sued for Malpractice Cross-Complaint Against the Lawyer Who Replaced Him ?
In Holland v. Thacher (1988) 199 Cal. App. 3d 924 [245 Cal. Rptr. 247], Division Two of the First District held that a lawyer sued for malpractice by a former client may not cross-complain for equitable indemnity against a successor lawyer hired to extricate the client from the condition created by the predecessor lawyer, noting that this rule "imposes no burden on the predecessor attorney.
Through the assertion of an affirmative defense the former attorney is still able to reduce his or her own exposure by the extent of the successor attorney's responsibility for the client's injury. . . . Principles of agency permit the successor attorney's negligence to be imputed to the client-plaintiff to reduce his or her recovery through application of comparative fault principles." (Id. at pp. 926, 929-930; and see Evangelatos v. Superior Court (1988) 44 Cal. 3d 1188, 1198 [246 Cal. Rptr. 629, 753 P.2d 585], for a discussion of Proposition 51, which retained joint and several liability for a plaintiff's economic damages but adopted a rule of several liability for noneconomic damages so that each defendant is liable for only that portion of the plaintiff's noneconomic damages that is commensurate with that defendant's degree of fault for the injury.)