Johnson v. Bronson, NO. 20120239. 2013 ND 78: Supreme Court of North Dakota Affirms Lower Court’s Decision Granting an Attorney’s Motion for Summary Judgment in Legal Malpractice Case

Boston, Massachusetts attorney, Keith L. Miller, provides the following case summary:

The Supreme Court of North Dakota has affirmed a trial court’s decision granting an attorney’s motion for summary judgment in a legal malpractice suit. In Johnson v. Bronson, a woman hired an attorney to represent her at a hearing to determine if she should be involuntarily committed to a mental health institution. At the hearing, it was determined that she should be hospitalized. However, she was released two weeks later.

The woman then filed a legal malpractice action alleging that the attorney negligently represented her at the hearing. The attorney moved for summary judgment, which the trial court granted. The women appealed.

The Supreme Court of North Dakota affirmed the lower court’s decision. In order to prove the causation element of legal malpractice, the client must show that but-for the attorney’s negligence, she would have achieved a better result in the underlying case. Relying on expert deposition testimony submitted in support of the attorney’s motion, the trial court properly found that the attorney’s conduct did not result in the woman’s hospitalization. Thus, summary judgment was appropriate.

Decision: Johnson v. Bronson


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