SIOUX CITY — A woman who says her lawsuit against a plastic surgeon was dismissed because her lawyers missed a filing deadline has sued them and a Sioux City law firm for legal malpractice and negligent misrepresentation.
Jessica McHugh says in her suit that Goosmann Law Firm's "exaggerated" claims about its attorneys' health care law experience on its website led her to choose them to represent her in her medical malpractice lawsuit against former Sioux City plastic surgeon Adam Smith. McHugh's lawsuit also says Goosmann attorneys Joel Carney and William Hale breached their duties of "skill, prudence and diligence that lawyers of ordinary skill and capacity commonly possess" by filing an affidavit more than four months past the date it was due.
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District Judge Patrick Tott cited the missed deadline in his 2020 ruling dismissing the lawsuit, a decision later upheld by the Iowa Court of Appeals.
The dismissal, McHugh said, prevented her from recovering damages from Smith and his then-employer, Tri-State Specialists.
In an answer to the lawsuit, the firm, Carney and Hale deny McHugh's allegations, saying they acted in good faith and believed they were complying with the law while representing her.
"Defendants exercised reasonable professional judgment in discharge of their duty and, as such, should not be held liable to the extent (McHugh's) claims attack that independent professional judgment," Alexander Wonio, a Des Moines attorney representing the firm and lawyers, said in his answer to the lawsuit.
McHugh, of Sergeant Bluff, sued Smith and Tri-State, saying the surgeon botched her 2017 plastic surgery, leading to infections in her surgical wounds that required hospitalization and additional operations to correct the damage.
When looking for legal representation for a medical malpractice lawsuit, McHugh visited the Goosmann Law Firm website, which said its attorneys know and understand health care law.
"With backgrounds in healthcare and litigation, Goosmann attorneys are ready to tackle any litigation challenge," the website says.
McHugh retained Carney and Hale, who filed the lawsuit in Woodbury County District Court in August 2019. Smith and Tri-State filed an answer a month later, starting the countdown on a 60-day deadline for McHugh's attorneys to provide to the court a certificate of merit affidavit for their expert witness. Due by Nov. 24, 2019, the affidavit wasn't filed until Feb. 7, 2020 -- 136 days past the deadline, leading to the defense's motion to dismiss that was granted by Tott.
That failure to comply with the deadline was a breach of duty, McHugh's current attorneys, Ryland Deinert and Timothy Clausen, both of Sioux City, said in her lawsuit.
"Goosmann Law Firm appears to have exaggerated its trial experience and experience in the medical malpractice field in order to attract and induce clients," the lawsuit says.
McHugh is seeking a judgment awarding her an unspecified amount of damages for past and future medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, permanent disfigurement and legal fees.
Smith, who now lives in Minnesota, was sued for malpractice by a number of other Sioux City-area patients and later surrendered his Iowa medical license to resolve charges of professional incompetency and unethical conduct. A federal judge in Michigan also ordered Smith to pay more than $236,000 in damages and penalties for filing dozens of fraudulent Medicare claims when he practiced in Michigan before moving to Sioux City.