A New Jersey appellate court has affirmed summary judgment in favor of an attorney in a legal malpractice action. In Wilson v. Gladstone, a client landowner, who was part of a group of similarly affected property owners, hired his own attorney to challenge a city ordinance, which rezoned districts in a way that negatively affected their properties. After a trial, the court found in favor of the city, and an appellate court affirmed the decision.
The client subsequently brought a legal malpractice action against the attorney, alleging that he negligently failed to retain a hydrogeologist to testify as an expert witness at trial. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the attorney, and the client appealed.
The appellate court affirmed, finding that the attorney had used reasonable professional judgment in declining to use a hydrogeologist as an expert. The attorney’s decision was based on the plaintiff group’s collective decision not to call the hydrogeologist because of financial constraints. The court determined that the client, by his conduct, had consented to being a part of the group, and submitted to its strategic decisions. As a result, the attorney had not breached the standard of care owed to the client, and summary judgment was proper.
Decision: Wilson v. Gladstone