United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
legal malpractice case arises out of Joseph Vacarro and the
Erie Law Center‘s ("defendants") legal
representation of Alkesh Patel ("plaintiff") in a
case regarding a physical altercation between plaintiff and
Pratik Patel. Default was entered by the Clerk of Court and
the Court granted plaintiff‘s Motion to Enter Default
Judgment. A Damages Hearing was held on February 7, 2018.
on the following Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law,
judgment is entered in favor of plaintiff and against
defendants, jointly and severally, for compensatory damages
in the amount of $556, 923 and punitive damages in amount of
$100, 000, for a total judgment of $656, 923.
April 29, 2014, plaintiff filed a Complaint against Pratik
Patel in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County,
asserting claims for assault and battery arising out of a
physical altercation that took place on March 22, 2014.
Pratik Patel removed the case (the “underlying
action”) to this court and filed counterclaims against
plaintiff for, inter alia, assault, battery and
defamation. On February 10, 2016, judgment was entered on
Pratik Patel‘s counterclaims in favor of Pratik Patel
and against Alkesh Patel in the amount of $1, 322, 500.
Plaintiff thereafter retained the law firm of Obermayer
Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel LLP (“Obermayer”),
who appealed and negotiated a settlement of the underlying
action for $375, 000.
30, 2017, plaintiff brought the present action against
Vaccaro and Erie Law Center for legal malpractice and breach
of contract relating to defendants‘ representation of
plaintiff in the underlying action. The case was thereafter
transferred from the calendar of Judge Robert F. Kelly, who
presided over the underlying action, to this Court by Order
dated July 5, 2017.
Complaint was properly served on defendants on July 11, 2017.
Defendants failed to respond to the Complaint as required by
law. Accordingly, a default was entered by the Clerk of Court
on August 10, 2017. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(a).
Thereafter, plaintiff filed a Motion to Enter Default
Judgment on September 25, 2017. By Order dated December 4,
2017, the Court granted plaintiff‘s Motion to Enter
Default Judgment and entered judgment in favor of plaintiff
and against defendants. The Court held a Damages Hearing on
February 7, 2018. Notwithstanding notice to defendants, they
did not appear at the Hearing.
FINDINGS OF FACT
Plaintiff is, and was at the time the suit was initiated, a
resident, citizen, and domiciliary of the State of
Washington, residing at 511 NE 138th Avenue,
Defendant Jospeh Vacarro, Esquire is an attorney licensed to
practice law in Pennsylvania with a business address at 5918
Torresdale Avenue, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Vacarro is,
and was at the time the suit was initiated, a resident,
citizen, and domiciliary of the State of Pennsylvania,
residing at 930 Delaware Avenue, Lansdale, Pennsylvania.
Defendant Erie Law Center is a registered business engaged in
the practice of law with a principal place of business at 635
West Erie Avenue, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Vacarro is the
registered owner of Erie Law Center.
Plaintiff retained defendants to represent him in a matter
arising out of a physical altercation between plaintiff and
Pratik Patel that took place during a March 22, 2014 industry
convention at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Plaintiff and defendants entered
into a Legal Services Agreement in which defendants agreed to
provide legal representation to plaintiff regarding the
altercation. Compl., Exhibit A.
April 29, 2014, Vaccaro filed a Complaint on behalf of
plaintiff against Pratik Patel in the Court of Common Pleas
of Philadelphia. The Complaint asserted claims for assault
May 23, 2014, Pratik Patel removed that case to this court,
Patel v. Patel, Case No. 14-cv-02949. Pratik Patel
then filed counterclaims against plaintiff for, inter
alia, assault, battery and defamation.
Unbeknownst to plaintiff, defendants failed to take any
action of record in the underlying case from May 23, 2014, to
February 8, 2016. Specifically, defendants failed to respond
to, inter alia, the following filings by Pratik
Patel: Answer to Plaintiff‘s Complaint with New Matter
and Counterclaims, First Amended Answer to Plaintiff‘s
Complaint with New Matter and Counterclaims, Motion for
Sanctions, Second Motion for Sanctions, Motion to Compel
Discovery Responses, Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Rule
37(b)(2)(A), Motion to Deem Admitted All Averments Made in
Counter Plaintiff‘s Request for Admissions, Motion for
Summary Judgment, Pretrial Memorandum, Motion in Limine,
Proposed Points for Charge, Amended Proposed Points for
Charge, and Admissions of Fact to be Read Into the Record.
Defendants failed to inform plaintiff of the court filings by
Pratik Patel and failed to communicate with plaintiff to