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Attorney Is Ordered to Pay $1.2 Million in Malpractice Suit

June 01, 2004|From a Times Staff Writer

A jury has decided that attorney Milton Grimes should pay $1.2 million to the mother of a man fatally shot by Gardena police after a jury found the lawyer failed to properly litigate her civil wrongful-death case.

Grimes, best known for representing Rodney G. King in his civil action, took over Lorine Harris' case from another attorney in October 1995, said attorney Joseph L. Shalant, who tried the legal malpractice case against Grimes.

A month later, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Cary H. Nishimoto dismissed the negligence lawsuit after the parties agreed to arbitrate a settlement.

But Harris opted out of the arbitration, Shalant said. And Grimes failed to ask the court to reinstate her case within the allotted time, ending any legal redress the mother may have had for her son's death.

Dexter Herbert, 20, was shot in the back of the head by a police officer during a March 24, 1989, drug raid on a Budlong Avenue apartment in Gardena.

After a monthlong trial, a Torrance jury found Thursday that Grimes was negligent in his handling of the case and based their malpractice verdict on the amount they believed Harris would have won if her case had gone to trial.

"His fatal mistake was never looking at the file," Shalant said.

Grimes' attorney, Vicki Sarmiento, said she planned to appeal the verdict, alleging that the jury went after the well-known lawyer because he has "deep pockets."

"This was outrageous," she said, noting that police had been vindicated in Herbert's death in a separate civil rights action that Harris had filed in federal court.

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