Justia Professional Malpractice & Ethics Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Wisconsin Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the circuit court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendant, Plaintiff's former criminal defense attorney, on Plaintiff's legal malpractice claim, holding that nothing about Plaintiff's case warranted developing an exception to the actual innocence rule. The actual innocence rule requires a criminal defendant who brings a legal malpractice action against his defense attorney to establish that the defendant did not commit the crime of which he was convicted. Plaintiff conceded that he was guilty but argued that Wisconsin courts should create an exception to the actual innocence rule. The circuit court declined to adopt a novel exception to prevailing law, applied the actual innocence rule, and granted summary judgment for Defendant. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiff failed to satisfy his burden of establishing a compelling reason to change existing law; and (2) because Plaintiff conceded guilt, his claim of legal malpractice was legally barred. View "Skindzelewski v. Smith" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the circuit court directing a verdict in favor of Defendant, an insurance agent, on Plaintiff's claim that Defendant was negligent because he procured an insurance policy that did not conform to Plaintiff's requirements, holding that Plaintiff must prove that it would have qualified for an insurance policy with better terms than the policy it actually obtained. Plaintiff sold new and used camper trailers. Plaintiff asked Defendant, an insurance agent, to acquire a policy to cover its camper inventory. Plaintiff thought Defendant had acquired a policy with a deductible for $1,000 per camper in the event of hail damage with a $5,000 aggregate deductible limit, but the policy actually required a $5,000 deductible per camper, with no aggregate limit. After a hailstorm damaged many of the campers on its lot, Plaintiff sued Defendant. The circuit court directed a verdict due to Plaintiff's failure to introduce evidence that an insurer would have insured Plaintiff with the deductible limits it thought it had. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff must not only prove that an insurance policy with the requested deductibles was commercially available but that Plaintiff would actually have qualified for that policy. View "Emer's Camper Corral, LLC v. Western Heritage Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Petitioners brought suit against Pro Electric Contractors for negligence in connection with Pro Electric’s work as a contractor on a government construction project. Pro Electric argued that the damage at issue occurred because of construction design decisions made by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) and that Pro Electric was simply implementing DOT’s decisions. The district court granted summary judgment for Pro Electric. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the undisputed facts do not support a reasonable inference that Pro Electric failed to comply with its duties in Wis. Stat. 182.0175(2)(am). View "Melchert v. Pro Electric Contractors" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed a personal injury slip-and-fall action against defendants and defendants moved to disqualify plaintiffs' attorney. At issue was whether defendants had standing to bring a motion to disqualify plaintiffs' attorney where plaintiffs' attorney's law firm had previously represented defendants' exclusive property manager. Also at issue was whether the circuit court erred as a matter of law in applying an "appearance of impropriety" standard in deciding the motion for disqualification. The court held that defendants had standing to move to disqualify opposing counsel where defendants have shown that plaintiffs' attorney's prior representation was so connected with the current litigation that the prior representation was likely to affect the just and lawful determination of defendants' position. The court also held that the circuit court incorrectly applied the standard of law and should have determined the motion for disqualification based on an attorney's duty to a former client in SCR 20:1.9. Accordingly, the court reversed the order of the circuit court and remanded for further proceedings.