Ater Wynne's Seattle trial lawyers, Steve Kennedy and Rob Roy Smith, today prevailed in a lawsuit filed against the NAACP, following a week-long bench trial in King County Superior Court. At issue was whether the national office of the NAACP was liable for legal malpractice, breach of contract, and negligence, arising from the alleged acts and omissions of a lawyer who also happened to work as a volunteer officer at the Seattle-King County Branch of the NAACP.
The plaintiff alleged that the lawyer mishandled his earlier race discrimination lawsuit against a former employer. Plaintiff also alleged that he thought he was being represented by the NAACP, which had supposedly "assigned" the lawyer to his case.
Relying on the U.S. Supreme Court's 1982 decision in NAACP v. Clairborne Hardware Co., the trial court found that there was no credible evidence that the NAACP authorized or ratified (either expressly or by implication) any of the activities of the local lawyer in connection with the previous discrimination lawsuit. The court found that neither the NAACP nor the Seattle-King County Branch was acting as the plaintiff's lawyer; rather, the plaintiff separately retained the lawyer as a private attorney.