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Real estate attorney James A. Gober must have wanted only a few colleagues at Arnall Golden Gregory to read an e-mail in which he wrote that he may have made a $1 million malpractice mistake. But Gober’s electronic missive is now a key piece of evidence in a suit against the Atlanta firm. The e-mail dealt with an appeals court decision that appeared to be important to Gober’s client, who was a week away from going to trial against a tenant the client claimed owed him about $1.2 million. The client, Gary A. Anglin of Chamblee, Ga., is not an attorney but stumbled upon the case in a supplement to a real estate law textbook he owns. In the e-mail to his colleagues, quoted in the malpractice suit, Gober wrote, “I completely overlooked an important recent decision that dramatically changed the landlord-tenant law.” “(How I missed the case is a mystery since I read the advance sheets. Arguably the case is indistinguishable, but there is a $1M risk of malpractice if I am wrong. … I fell into the trap in a major way.)” Anglin, his family and the family’s real estate company, Duke Galish, sued Gober and Arnall Golden this month in Fulton County Superior Court. They are seeking $1.13 million in damages. Duke Galish v. Arnall Golden Gregory, No. 2005CV103179 (Fult. Super. filed July 5, 2005). “The claims are without merit,” Gober said Monday. He declined to comment further and referred additional questions to Karen B. Bragman, chairwoman of Arnall Golden’s litigation practice group. Bragman did not return two calls seeking comment. The dispute stems from whether a former Toyota dealer lived up to its end of a bargain to maintain a facility it was leasing from Anglin’s family business. The Anglins claim Fort Wayne, Ind.-based Kelley Automotive Group, which was leasing the building for a Kelley Toyota dealership, did not replace large plate-glass windows and perform other jobs required in their rental contract, putting the family on the hook for at least $1.2 million in maintenance work. Anglin hired Gober, a member of Arnall Golden’s business litigation group and the leader of the firm’s real estate litigation team, to pursue the claims against Kelley Automotive. According to the malpractice suit, Gober advised Anglin that he should first attempt to evict Kelley from the property and later pursue monetary damages. The result was a suit in DeKalb County State Court, Duke Galish v. Kelley Toyota, No. 01A80989-1. Gober and Arnall Golden put a significant amount of time and effort into the Anglins’ suit against Kelley, said Charlotte B. Perrell, an attorney with Perrell & Wright who represents the Anglins in their suit against the firm. “They had already had some pretrial conferences, and the matter was getting ready to go to trial,” Perrell said. But about a week before the case was scheduled for trial, Anglin received in the mail a supplement to a real estate law textbook he had purchased. In the book was a reference to a case in which the Georgia Court of Appeals ruled that a landlord must simultaneously evict an unwanted tenant and pursue financial damages, or it will forfeit the legal right to seek a monetary award. The case was Atlanta J’s v. Houston Foods, 237 Ga. App. 415 (1999). Anglin “thought it was strange and that it would impact their own litigation, and he immediately called Gober and asked him about it,” Perrell said. “Gober said he had forgot about that case, that it slipped his mind, or something along those lines.” A copy of the appeals court decision had apparently already been included in the Anglins’ file and had been cited in real estate seminars that Gober had given previously, Perrell said. The Anglins decided to abandon the initial suit against Kelley Automotive and start over, according to the malpractice suit. The Kelley Automotive matter has since been settled. Anglin fired Arnall Golden and demanded all the files from the case, which inadvertently included Gober’s e-mails to his colleagues, Perrell said. In one of the e-mails, Gober told other Arnall Golden attorneys that the firm should “acknowledge I made a mistake” in the Anglins’ case, and that it could have been “disastrous for everyone concerned.” “A lot of the e-mails in that file were innocuous,” Perrell said. “It was correspondence that someone probably just stuck in the file.” Anglin, reached at his home in Highlands, N.C., declined to comment. Anglin owns Apple Motors, a car dealership that’s located in the same building that was the center of the earlier dispute. Attorneys familiar with commercial real estate transactions should be familiar with the precedent set in the Atlanta J’s case, according to Taylor W. Jones, an attorney who submitted an affidavit for the Anglins. “An attorney of ordinary skill and capacity, exercising diligence in this matter, would not have advised Duke to pursue only the claims for the dispossessory and wait to pursue the claims for money damages at a later time,” Jones said in the affidavit. It is a state requirement for malpractice suits to include an affidavit from an industry expert, according to O.C.G.A. � 9-11-9.1 (a). Jones was paid at his standard hourly rate to provide the affidavit, Perrell said.

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