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Lawyer whose absence lost school bullying death case ordered to compensate victim's family

June 12, 2024 - 17:25 By Yoon Min-sik
Lee Gi-cheol (second from right), the mother of a teenage girl who died in a school bullying case, speaks to reporters Tuesday at the Seoul Central District Court, after partially winning a civil case against her lawyer. The lawyer’s repeated failure to show up to hearings in the suit against the school bullies resulted in Lee and her family losing the case. (Yonhap)

Kwon Gyeong-ae, a lawyer whose repeated failures to show up to court lost a case involving a teenage girl's death caused by school bullying, was ordered by another court to pay 50 million won ($36,000) in compensation to the bereaved family of the victim.

The Seoul Central District Court on Tuesday ruled against Kwon in the civil damages suit filed by the girl’s mother, Lee Gi-cheol, and her family, in which they requested a total of 200 million won in financial and psychological damages caused by the lawyer's blunder. The total included financial compensation that the family would have received if they won the school bullying case regarding the death of Lee's daughter.

The court said that Kwon did not carry out her duties as a lawyer during the school bullying trial. She also failed to notify her clients of the loss, which prevented the family from taking the case to the Supreme Court.

But the court did not determine that Lee and her family would have won the case if Kwon had properly represented them, and awarded the plaintiffs only the compensation for the psychological damages.

Kwon represented Lee’s family in their civil lawsuit seeking compensation for the 2015 death of Lee's daughter. The family initially won the case in 2019, but Kwon then failed to show up at the hearings for the appellate case three times.

Kwon's absences led to the court overturning the previous ruling under Article 268 of the Civil Procedure Act, which regards such absences as showing intent not to pursue the lawsuit.

The loss also meant that the victim's family was forced to shoulder all legal costs related to the trial, as South Korean law stipulates the person who lost the case is mandated to pay the legal costs of both sides. Tuesday's ruling also ordered Kwon to cover a quarter of the legal costs in the case she lost.

Lee appeared on a local radio show and decried the ruling. She said the ruling was "inhumane and machinelike," as the verdict was a rote application of the law and did not consider human elements.

Lee indicated she would appeal the case.