Justia Wyoming Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Professional Malpractice & Ethics
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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court granting summary judgment for Defendants, an attorney and her law firm, in Plaintiff's legal malpractice action, holding that the district court properly granted summary judgment to Defendants. Plaintiff hired the attorney to represent him in an administrative hearing regarding his termination from employment with the City of Cheyenne. Plaintiff was denied a hearing to contest his termination because the attorney failed timely to request the hearing on behalf of Plaintiff. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendants. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Defendants' expert's opinion satisfied their burden by demonstrating Plaintiff would not have been successful in his hearing; (2) Plaintiff did not meet his burden to demonstrate through expert testimony that the attorney's failure to timely file a request for a hearing caused his damages and created a genuine issue of material fact regarding causation; and (3) therefore, Plaintiff's expert could not opine on the likelihood of success had Plaintiff been given a hearing. View "Scranton v. Woodhouse" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing Plaintiff's complaint against an attorney and his law firm (collectively, Defendants) seeking return of a retainer Plaintiff paid the attorney to defend him against a first degree murder charge, holding that the two-year professional malpractice statute of limitations barred Plaintiff's complaint. Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint under Wyo. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) because Plaintiff filed his complaint outside the professional malpractice statute of limitations set forth in Wyo. Stat. Ann. 1-3-107(a)(i). In response, Plaintiff argued that his complaint asserted breach of contract and fraud claims that fell, respectively, within ten- and four-year limitation periods. The district court dismissed the complaint. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiff failed to plead his fraud claim with the particularity required by Wyo. R. Civ. P. 9(b), and his breach of contract claim arose out of his professional relationship with the attorney; and (2) therefore, section 1-3-107(a)(i) barred Plaintiff's complaint. View "Foltz v. Oblasser" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court denying Defendants' motion to dismiss for improper venue, holding that venue was not proper in Sheridan County. Plaintiffs brought this action in Sheridan County for legal malpractice against two attorneys and their firm. Defendants resided and had their personal place of business in Albany County. Defendants were served with the complaint at their place of business in Albany County. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that venue was improper in Sheridan County. The district court denied the motion, finding that Defendants could reasonably have expected to be summoned in Sheridan County. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court abused its discretion when it denied Defendants' motion to dismiss based on an erroneous interpretation of the venue provision in Wyo. Stat. Ann. 1-5-108. View "Aron v. Willey" on Justia Law

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In these appeals from the district court's order affirming in part and reversing and remanding in part the decision of the Wyoming Board of Medicine suspending Dr. Rebecca Painter's physician's license the Supreme Court dismissed the appeals for want of jurisdiction holding that the district court's order was not an appealable order under Wyo. R. App. P. 1.05. For violations of various provisions of the Medical Practice Act, Wyo. Stat. Ann. 33-26-101 through 703, the Board suspended Dr. Painter's physician's license for a minimum of five years, fined her $15,000, and ordered her to pay one-half of the costs of the proceedings. The district court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding that there was insufficient evidence that Dr. Painter violated some of the provisions for which her license was suspended. The court also reversed and remanded the Board's decision assessing Dr. Painter one-half of the costs of the proceedings. Dr. Painter appealed, and the Board filed a cross-appeal. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeals, holding that the district court's order was not a final appealable order. View "McGill v. Painter" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the orders of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants, three professionals, on Plaintiff’s claims of malpractice, breach of fiduciary duty, and conversion arising out of conservatorship and divorce proceedings, holding that the district court did not err. Defendants were Plaintiff’s conservator and counsel during the divorce proceedings. After the divorce concluded, Defendant filed this lawsuit alleging conversion, professional malpractice, and breach of fiduciary duty. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) collateral estopped precluded Plaintiff from prevailing on his conversion claim; and (2) the district court did not err in granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants on the malpractice and breach of fiduciary duty claims. View "Tozzi v. Moffett" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Pioneer Homestead on its professional negligence claim against Sargent Engineers, Inc. on the grounds that Pioneer’s claims were time-barred, holding that disputed issues of material fact existed with respect to whether Pioneer reasonably should have discovered Sargent’s alleged negligence. After Pioneer completed construction of an apartment building it discovered numerous design deficiencies in the building’s plans, as well as deviations from those plans in the building’s construction. Pioneer sued Sargent for professional negligence in the structural engineering services it provided during the design phase of the building’s construction. The district court ruled that Pioneer’s claims were time-barred as a matter of law. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that genuine issues of material fact existed as to when Pioneer should reasonably have been on notice that it needed to investigate the adequacy of the sign, plans, and specifications for the building. View "Pioneer Homestead Apartments III v. Sargent Engineers, Inc." on Justia Law

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Andrea Richard allegedly violated the Wyoming Rules of Professional Conduct in seven different court proceedings between 2006 and 2012 by failing to comply with discovery requests and orders, causing her clients to be subjected to sanctions and expenses. According to the court she has substantial experience in the practice of law, she acted dishonestly or with a selfish motive, there was a pattern of misconduct, there were multiple offenses, she acted in bad faith to obstruct the disciplinary process by intentionally failing to comply with the rules, she refused until the very end of the process to acknowledge the wrongfulness of her conduct and the victims were vulnerable. The court adopted the recommendation of the Board of Professional Responsibility and suspended Richard from the practice of law for three years, among other sanctions. View "Bd. of Prof'l Responsibility, WY State Bar v. Richard" on Justia Law

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Appellants decided to sell 850 acres of farmland but wanted to retain the mineral rights. Summit Title Services prepared the deeds for the sale, but he deeds did not reserve the minerals. Appellants were made aware of the omission at closing, insisted that the deeds be corrected, and were assured by Summit’s employee that the problem had been rectified. Six years later, Appellants learned that the minerals had been transferred with the land. Appellants filed suit against Summit, its general counsel Olen Snider, and Kuzma Success Realty, a brokerage firm involved in the transaction. The district court granted summary judgment for Appellees on all claims, concluding that Appellants failed to exercise due diligence to discover the error so as to extend the statute of limitation as a matter of law. The Supreme Court reversed the grant of summary judgment to Summit and Snider, concluding that there were genuine issues of material fact as to whether Appellants exercised due diligence to discover errors allegedly made by Summit and that Snider failed to present a prima facie case that he was entitled to summary judgment. View "Moats v. Prof'l Assistance, LLC " on Justia Law