Lee v. Stearn, No. B244790: Court of Appeals of California Affirms Judgment for Attorney in Legal Malpractice Action for Failure to Present Expert Testimony


The attorney, provides the following summation of a recent legal malpractice lawsuit:

A California appellate court has affirmed a trial court’s decision in a legal malpractice action holding that an attorney was entitled to judgment because the client failed to present expert testimony demonstrating the attorney’s negligence. In Massachusetts, the same burden of proof would be placed on the claimant in a similar legal malpractice action.

In Lee v. Stearn, a client hired an attorney to bring a professional malpractice claim against her dentist, who then moved for summary judgment. The attorney attempted to contact all of the medical professionals who treated the client for her injuries, but none were willing to sign an affidavit to oppose the motion or act as an expert witness. The attorney failed to file any opposition or appear at a hearing on the motion. The court ruled in favor of the dentist.

The client then brought a claim for legal malpractice against the attorney. The case proceeded to trial, where the client failed to present any lay or expert witnesses. The court entered judgment for the attorney and the client appealed.

The appellate court affirmed. In order to prove her claim, the client had to show that the attorney’s conduct resulted in the adverse ruling in the underlying case. This required her to present her own expert showing that the dentist failed to meet the standard of care for a reasonable dentist. Having failed to present any such evidence, the attorney was entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

Decision: Lee v. Stearn



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