Justia Professional Malpractice & Ethics Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Wyoming Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court granting Defendant summary judgment and dismissing Plaintiff's legal malpractice claim, holding that collateral estoppel and in pari delicto barred Plaintiff's legal malpractice claim.In 2018, the district court revoked The Mattheis Company's (the Company) liquor license. In 2019, the Company sued Richard Mulligan and Mulligan Law Office, P.C. (collectively, Mulligan), for legal malpractice related to the revocation of its liquor license. The district court granted Mulligan summary judgment based on collateral estoppel. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that collateral estoppel and in pari delicto barred the Company's legal malpractice claim. View "Mattheis Co. v. Mulligan" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court using a judgment against Alexander Mantle to set off judgments Alexander and Majorie Mantle had against Ray and Gary Garland and failing to recognize the Mantles' right to the proceeds from a settlement of a third-party action against Karl Killmer and Killmer & Associates (collectively, Killmer), holding that the district court did not err.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) Ray and Gary were entitled to use the assigned portions of the judgment against Alexander to satisfy the judgments the Mantles had against them for fraudulent transfers; and (2) the district court did not have jurisdiction to the portion of the Killmer settlement funds not deposited with the district court. View "Mantle v. North Star Energy & Construction LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the district court dismissing with prejudice Plaintiff's legal malpractice suit against the Office of the State Public Defender, the State Public Defender, and the individual public defenders who represented him in his criminal case, holding that exoneration is not a prerequisite for a malpractice action.In dismissing Plaintiff's action, the district court found that none of the exceptions to governmental immunity in the Wyoming Governmental Claims Act (WGCA) applied and that the exoneration rule made Plaintiff's claim premature. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Plaintiff's malpractice claim did not fall within the WGCA's contract exception; (2) the issue of the Public Defenders' insurance coverage was not properly disposed of on a motion to dismiss; and (3) the exoneration rule did not bar Plaintiff's malpractice suit. View "Dockter v. Lozano" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court granting summary judgment for Defendants, an attorney and her law firm, in Plaintiff's legal malpractice action, holding that the district court properly granted summary judgment to Defendants.Plaintiff hired the attorney to represent him in an administrative hearing regarding his termination from employment with the City of Cheyenne. Plaintiff was denied a hearing to contest his termination because the attorney failed timely to request the hearing on behalf of Plaintiff. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendants. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Defendants' expert's opinion satisfied their burden by demonstrating Plaintiff would not have been successful in his hearing; (2) Plaintiff did not meet his burden to demonstrate through expert testimony that the attorney's failure to timely file a request for a hearing caused his damages and created a genuine issue of material fact regarding causation; and (3) therefore, Plaintiff's expert could not opine on the likelihood of success had Plaintiff been given a hearing. View "Scranton v. Woodhouse" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing Plaintiff's complaint against an attorney and his law firm (collectively, Defendants) seeking return of a retainer Plaintiff paid the attorney to defend him against a first degree murder charge, holding that the two-year professional malpractice statute of limitations barred Plaintiff's complaint.Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint under Wyo. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) because Plaintiff filed his complaint outside the professional malpractice statute of limitations set forth in Wyo. Stat. Ann. 1-3-107(a)(i). In response, Plaintiff argued that his complaint asserted breach of contract and fraud claims that fell, respectively, within ten- and four-year limitation periods. The district court dismissed the complaint. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiff failed to plead his fraud claim with the particularity required by Wyo. R. Civ. P. 9(b), and his breach of contract claim arose out of his professional relationship with the attorney; and (2) therefore, section 1-3-107(a)(i) barred Plaintiff's complaint. View "Foltz v. Oblasser" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court denying Defendants' motion to dismiss for improper venue, holding that venue was not proper in Sheridan County.Plaintiffs brought this action in Sheridan County for legal malpractice against two attorneys and their firm. Defendants resided and had their personal place of business in Albany County. Defendants were served with the complaint at their place of business in Albany County. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that venue was improper in Sheridan County. The district court denied the motion, finding that Defendants could reasonably have expected to be summoned in Sheridan County. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court abused its discretion when it denied Defendants' motion to dismiss based on an erroneous interpretation of the venue provision in Wyo. Stat. Ann. 1-5-108. View "Aron v. Willey" on Justia Law

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In these appeals from the district court's order affirming in part and reversing and remanding in part the decision of the Wyoming Board of Medicine suspending Dr. Rebecca Painter's physician's license the Supreme Court dismissed the appeals for want of jurisdiction holding that the district court's order was not an appealable order under Wyo. R. App. P. 1.05.For violations of various provisions of the Medical Practice Act, Wyo. Stat. Ann. 33-26-101 through 703, the Board suspended Dr. Painter's physician's license for a minimum of five years, fined her $15,000, and ordered her to pay one-half of the costs of the proceedings. The district court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding that there was insufficient evidence that Dr. Painter violated some of the provisions for which her license was suspended. The court also reversed and remanded the Board's decision assessing Dr. Painter one-half of the costs of the proceedings. Dr. Painter appealed, and the Board filed a cross-appeal. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeals, holding that the district court's order was not a final appealable order. View "McGill v. Painter" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the orders of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants, three professionals, on Plaintiff’s claims of malpractice, breach of fiduciary duty, and conversion arising out of conservatorship and divorce proceedings, holding that the district court did not err.Defendants were Plaintiff’s conservator and counsel during the divorce proceedings. After the divorce concluded, Defendant filed this lawsuit alleging conversion, professional malpractice, and breach of fiduciary duty. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) collateral estopped precluded Plaintiff from prevailing on his conversion claim; and (2) the district court did not err in granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants on the malpractice and breach of fiduciary duty claims. View "Tozzi v. Moffett" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Pioneer Homestead on its professional negligence claim against Sargent Engineers, Inc. on the grounds that Pioneer’s claims were time-barred, holding that disputed issues of material fact existed with respect to whether Pioneer reasonably should have discovered Sargent’s alleged negligence.After Pioneer completed construction of an apartment building it discovered numerous design deficiencies in the building’s plans, as well as deviations from those plans in the building’s construction. Pioneer sued Sargent for professional negligence in the structural engineering services it provided during the design phase of the building’s construction. The district court ruled that Pioneer’s claims were time-barred as a matter of law. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that genuine issues of material fact existed as to when Pioneer should reasonably have been on notice that it needed to investigate the adequacy of the sign, plans, and specifications for the building. View "Pioneer Homestead Apartments III v. Sargent Engineers, Inc." on Justia Law