Justia Professional Malpractice & Ethics Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Montana Supreme Court
Labair v. Carey
The Labairs lost their newborn baby after an early delivery by C-section. The Labairs retained Steve Carey and Carey Law Firm (Carey) to pursue their medical malpractice claim against their obstetrician. More than two and a half years later, Carey filed a complaint against the obstetrician. However, Carey failed to file an application with the Montana Medical Legal Panel (MMLP) before filing a complaint with the district court as required by statute and further failed to file an MMLP application within the three-year statute of limitations applicable to medical malpractice claims. The district court later dismissed the Labairs' medical malpractice case with prejudice as time-barred by the statute of limitations. The Labairs subsequently filed a complaint for legal malpractice against Casey. The district court entered summary judgment for Carey, concluding that Carey's conduct of failing to file the application with the MMLP did not cause the Labairs injury or damages because the Labairs failed to show that the underlying medical malpractice claims would have succeeded but for the error. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, holding (1) the Labairs' loss of their medical malpractice case was an injury; and (2) the damages associated with that injury remained unproven. View "Labair v. Carey " on Justia Law
H & H Dev., LLC v. Ramlow
H&H Development, LLC hired Jim Ramlow for legal services. In 2007, H&H filed a pro se complaint in Lake County against Ramlow and his law firm for professional negligence. Eleven days later, H&H, through counsel, filed a complaint in Flathead County against Eagle Bend, seeking damages based on allegations similar to those in the Lake County complaint. H&H settled with Eagle Bend. In 2010, H&H filed an amended Flathead County complaint that named Ramlow and his firm as defendants and included a lawyer's signature. The district court subsequently declared the Lake County complaint null and void after determining that a non-lawyer could not file a complaint on behalf of a limited liability company. Thereafter, the court granted summary judgment to Defendants on the amended complaint based upon the running of the applicable statute of limitations. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that a district court has discretion to determine whether a corporation should be able to relate back to an amended complaint signed by a lawyer, to its original, pro se complaint. Remanded to assess whether Mont. R. Civ. P. 15(c) permitted H&H's amended complaint in Flathead County to relate back to H&H's pro se Lake County complaint. View "H & H Dev., LLC v. Ramlow" on Justia Law
In re Marriage of Orcutt
Petitioner filed a petition for dissolution in district court and the only contested issue between the parties was the valuation and division of the marital home and surrounding acreage, which was purchased for $45,000 in the mid-1990's. Petitioner had obtained a letter from a realtor stating that the marital home could be worth approximately $250,000-275,000 if the home was in good condition. At issue was whether the district court abused its discretion when it denied petitioner's M.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(6) motion, which was filed after the district court found the marital home was valued at $22,423, where petitioner alleged that her attorney grossly neglected her case when she failed to identify the realtor as an expert, or any other qualified real estate expert, and failed to prepare any evidence for trial to reflect petitioner's estimated value of the marital home. The court held that under the unique circumstances, where the district court had a statutory obligation to equitably apportion the marital estate and petitioner's counsel totally failed to present evidence on the issue, the district court abused its discretion in denying her Rule 60(b)(6) motion and should have granted the motion, thereby allowing her to present evidence regarding the value of the marital home so that the district court could make an equitable distribution. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings.