This is an unusual case – legal malpractice in the immigration setting. Plaintiffs won a verdict at the trial but appealed on the grounds that the trial court wrongfully barred their claims for mental distress damages, punitive damages and lost chance damages.
The plaintiffs were citizens of Ecudor who were living in the United States illegally. As a result of alleged errors by the attorney defendant, the plaintiffs returned to Ecuador seeking re-entry to the United States. Because their son was not a qualifying relative under the immigration law, the plaintiffs were barred from re-entering the United States for ten years. This caused them, allegedly, to be separated from their children for ten years.
The trial court allowed the plaintiffs to recover the amounts they paid to the defendant lawyer and little else. The Iowa Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the case for a new trial. It held that the plaintiffs could recover mental distress damages and punitive damages because the immigration attorney allegedly acted recklessly.
Edward X. Clinton, Jr.