Third District Court of Appeal ()
A disbarred Miami attorney can amend his malpractice lawsuit against two lawyers who represented him on a Florida Bar grievance, a state appellate court ruled Wednesday.
Daryl L. Merl consented to disbarment in 2007 after a $5,967 check bounced to a client from his law firm’s trust account.
Merl was supposed to have $208,207 in the account to cover funds owed to 20 clients but instead had only $4.07. The money came from court awards to Merl’s clients, according to the Florida Supreme Court.
Merl also faced felony charges for misappropriating his clients’ money in his trust account and cocaine possession. He was placed on probation, and adjudication was withheld, according to court records.
Miami attorneys Jeffrey Weiner and Mycki Ratzan represented Merl in his grievance hearing.
Merl later filed a pro se malpractice lawsuit against Weiner and Ratzan, claiming legal malpractice and fraud for allegedly mishandling the grievance.
Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jorge Cueto granted Weiner’s motion to dismiss the suit with prejudice. Merl appealed the decision to the Third District Court of Appeal in Miami.
A three-judge panel of Judges Vance Salter, Kevin Emas and Ivan Fernandez ruled Cueto should not have prohibited Merl from amending his complaint. Cueto granted the defendant’s motion after Merl missed a filing deadline.
“The order did not specify that the failure to file an amended complaint within that time would result in a dismissal with prejudice,” Salter, writing for the unanimous panel, said in the four-page opinion referring the matter back to the circuit court.
“Obviously, we are pleased with the result,” said Miami attorney Marlene S. Reiss, who represented Merl on appeal. “There really is nothing new in the opinion. It’s a fair result under the case law which is very well-established.”
Coral Gables attorney Israel Reyes of the Reyes Law Firm, who represented Weiner and Ratzan, said he hopes Merl will now file an amended complaint so the case can move forward.