The Court of Appeals of Georgia has ruled that clients, the parents of a child who had died in a school bus accident, were entitled to present expert testimony as to damages sustained in a legal malpractice action. In Tidwell v. Hinton & Powell, parents sued their former attorney for negligence representing his estate in a wrongful death action.
The attorney had filed a lawsuit against the county board of education. However, after discovering that the school district was the proper defendant, the attorney voluntarily dismissed the action and filed a new complaint in the same court, rather than adding the school district as an additional party. By the time the new action was filed, the applicable statute of limitations had run, leading to dismissal of the new case.
The parents then filed a legal malpractice claim against their attorney. The parents had planned to offer expert testimony to support their damage claim, to the effect that the attorney’s negligence had proximately caused damages in excess of $500,000.00. The defendant attorney moved to exclude this expert testimony. The trial judge granted the motion, but then certified the issue for immediate appellate review.
The appeals court reversed, finding that the expert’s testimony should have been admitted. The court reasoned that the parents were entitled to offer evidence showing that some amount of damages was collectible, and in turn the defendant attorney could rebut with a showing that the damages were some other amount, leaving the jury to weigh the evidence. The Appeals Court remanded the case for further proceedings.
Decision: Tidwell v. Hinton & Powell