Justia Professional Malpractice & Ethics Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Wyoming Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court denying Wind River Rehabilitation and Wellness's motion to compel arbitration in this action alleging medical malpractice, holding that the district court erred in denying the motion to compel arbitration.Plaintiff, the wrongful death representative of Loy Forshee, filed this action against Wind River, where Forshee lived when he fell and broke his hip, alleging medical malpractice. Wind River moved to compel arbitration under the parties' arbitration agreement. The district court denied the motion, concluding that Wind River waived his right to arbitration by waiting fourteen months to compel arbitration. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the record did not support a conclusion that Wind River waived its right to arbitrate. View "Empres at Riverton, LLC v. Osborne" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed in part and affirmed in part the judgment of the district court in favor of Baldwin, Crocker & Rudd, P.C. and Kelly Rudd (collectively, BCR) in this action brought by the Northern Arapaho Tribe and the Wind River Hotel & Casino (collectively, the Tribe), holding that the district court's order imposing sanctions on the Tribe was erroneous.The Tribe brought this action seeking injunctions for the return of tribal funds and documents, an accounting, and damages for conversion and civil theft. The district court granted summary judgment for BCR on the accounting and injunctions claims and, after a jury trial, entered final judgment on the conversion and civil theft claim. The Tribe appealed, arguing, among other things, that the district court erred by awarding sanctions under Wyo. R. Civ. P. 11. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that (1) the district court erred in imposing sanctions because BCR failed to comply with the procedural requirements of Rule 11; (2) the district court did not err when it granted summary judgment for BCR on the Tribe's accounting claim; and (3) the Tribe failed to show the verdict would have been more favorable if racially charged evidence had not been admitted. View "Northern Arapaho Tribe v. Baldwin, Crocker & Rudd, P.C." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment against Steven Johnson and his legal entities (collectively, Appellants) on Johnson's legal malpractice claims against Danielle M. Mathey and Mathey Law Office, P.C. (collectively, Appellees), holding that Appellees were entitled to judgment as a matter of law.Appellants sued Appellees alleging legal malpractice regarding Mathey's representation of Johnson on various matters. Because Appellants did not designate an expert witness or present any competent evidence establishing the legal elements of their legal malpractice claims the district court granted summary judgment for Appeellees, finding that Appellants failed to establish through expert testimony or other competent evidence a genuine issue of material fact on the elements of their claims. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, under the facts of this case, the district court properly granted summary judgment in favor of Appellees. View "Johnson v. Mathey" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendant on her counterclaim for breach of contract in this legal malpractice lawsuit, holding that there was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the parties entered into a lawfully enforceable settlement agreement.The underlying lawsuit arose after the death of Plaintiff's mother when Defendant failed timely to file an application with the Wyoming Medical Review Panel and a wrongful death lawsuit. Defendant filed a counterclaim for breach of contract, alleging that the parties had entered into a valid agreement to settle the legal malpractice claim for $100,000. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendant, concluding that the settlement agreement was enforceable. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that there was a genuine issue of material fact about whether the parties had a setting of the funds on the issue of who was settling and who would be bound by the settlement, precluding summary judgment. View "Kappes v. Rhodes" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court reversing in part and affirming in part the decision of the Wyoming Board of Medicine to suspend Dr. Rebecca Painter's medical license, holding that the district court did not err.The Board appointed two members (Petitioners) to file a complaint and petition alleging that Painter had violated certain provisions of the Wyoming Medical Practice Act, Wyo. Stat. Ann. 33-26-101 through -703. After a contested case hearing, the Board terminated Painter's license upon finding that Painter had exploited her professional relationship with a patient and the patient's family and improperly terminated the physician-patient relationship. The Board then assessed costs and fees against Painter. The district court affirmed some violations, reversed other violations, reversed the Board's assessed fees and affirmed all other costs. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the contested case hearing procedure did not violate Painter's due process rights; (2) the Board's finding that Painter exploited her professional relationship with the patient was supported by clear and convincing evidence; and (3) the Board's finding that Painter improperly terminated the physician-patient relationship was supported by substantial evidence. View "Hallingbye ex rel. Wyoming Board of Medicine v. Painter" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court granting Defendants' motion to dismiss this legal malpractice complaint and to compel arbitration based on the arbitration provision in the parties' engagement agreement, holding that the district court erred when it failed to stay the malpractice action.On appeal, Plaintiff argued that the arbitration provision and the engagement agreement were unenforceable and that the district court erred when it failed to stay the malpractice action as required by the Wyoming and Utah Uniform Arbitration Acts. The Supreme Court agreed, holding (1) the district court properly limited the scope of its arbitrability ruling to address only the enforceability of the arbitration provision; and (2) the district court erred when it dismissed the legal malpractice action upon ordering arbitration. View "Inman v. Grimmer" on Justia Law

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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