Motion Denied in Suit over Legal Malpractice

Article excerpt

EVIDENCE ALLOWED: Trial, to start Monday, can include facts from earlier case

A U.S. District Court judge will allow Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. attorneys to present some findings from a civil lawsuit involving Robert Messick in an agency malpractice suit against the prominent local real estate attorney scheduled to begin Monday.

Judge Virginia Hernandez-Covington's ruling on Thursday concluded that evidence in the civil suit presented against Messick and Sarasota law firm Icard Merrill, where he is a partner, is also pertinent in the FDIC case.

The civil dispute centered on a proposed residential development along the Upper Manatee River, and the FDIC case involves the same land.

The FDIC sued Messick and Icard Merrill in December 2011, alleging legal malpractice and breach of fiduciary duty on behalf of the now defunct First Priority Bank.

The agency is seeking $4.6 million in damages to cover losses it attributes to a conflict of interest the FDIC claims Messick had in the Upper Manatee River development deal.

The trial in the case is scheduled to take all of next week.

Attorneys representing the FDIC declined to comment.

Dennis Waggoner, a Tampa attorney representing Messick and Icard Merrill, also declined comment Friday.

Waggoner had filed a motion to exclude any evidence from the civil matter, which sparked a $1.4 million settlement with River Meadows Development LLC that included a condition that it was not an admission of guilt.

The judge tossed the motion this week.

The defendants motion "failed to demonstrate that any particular item of evidence is irrelevant, unduly prejudicial, or otherwise improper," the judge ruled.

In March, Hernandez-Covington dashed a Waggoner motion seeking the end the malpractice suit on the grounds that it was unsupported by the evidence.

First Priority loan

The case stems from a $5.3 million loan First Priority issued to a company led by former Longboat Key real estate investor Mark Brivik. …