A Texas appellate court has affirmed a summary judgment for an attorney in a legal malpractice case. In Haddy v. Caldwell, a client retained an attorney to bring a medical malpractice suit against United States Army physicians, who treated the client’s then wife. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the doctors and the case was dismissed.
The client then sued the attorney for negligently failing to designate an expert witness and file an expert report in the medical malpractice suit. The attorney moved for summary judgment, which the trial court granted. The client appealed.
The appellate court affirmed. In a legal malpractice case arising from litigation, in addition to proving that the attorney was negligent, the plaintiff must also prove the “case within the case”. This means that he must show that he would have succeeded in the underlying suit but for the attorney’s negligence.
Here, the client submitted an affidavit of a medical professional with his opposition to the attorney’s motion for summary judgment, but failed to present expert witness testimony regarding the attorney’s negligence. Therefore, summary judgment was appropriate because the client could not show that the attorney’s failure to designate a medical expert constituted a breach of the standard of care for a reasonable lawyer.
Decision: Haddy v. Caldwell