Court of Appeals Reaffirms Requirement of a Detailed Expert Opinion Regarding Causation in Legal Malpractice Claims

Linda E. Walsh, v. Warrenn C. Anderson, et al. 2016 WL 7439087 (Minn. Ct. App. Dec. 27, 2016), review denied (Minn. March 14, 2017).

Minnesota Court of Appeals

Type of Case: Insurance Coverage

Practice Area(s): Appellate Insurance

Lawyer(s): Bradley M. Jones William M. Hart Julia J Nierengarten

Office(s): Minneapolis

Date: Dec 27 2017

Client sued attorney and law firm, alleging that they committed legal malpractice in representing both her and her husband in estate planning matters after she filed for, and then withdrew the petition for, divorce. Appellant alleged that lawyers breached their fiduciary duties by having her sign estate planning documents that were allegedly not in her interest and that they were negligent in allowing her to sign the estate planning documents when the plan allegedly resulted in her taking less than her “fair” share. In accordance with state statute, Appellant submitted an affidavit of expert disclosure providing detailed opinions regarding the Respondents’ duty and alleged breach thereof but stated no more than that the breach “caused [Appellant’s] injury.” The district court granted lawyers’ motion to dismiss based on recently restated Minnesota Supreme Court case law requiring that expert affidavits provide “meaningful information” summarizing the expert’s opinion on how the defendant’s actions were the proximate cause of a plaintiff’s alleged injuries, and stating that a fatal flaw – such as the failure to provide detailed opinions regarding causation – rendered Appellant ineligible for the statute’s safe harbor provision. The court of appeals affirmed the dismissal, determining that district court properly applied the relevant case law when it determined that the expert affidavit’s statement of causation was not sufficient to meet the standard established by the Minnesota Supreme Court in Brown-Wilbert, Inc. v. Copeland Buhl & Co. P.L.L.P. and Guzick v. Kimball.

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