Expert Testimony Not Admissible to Prove Causation in Legal Malpractice Suits - Van Sant Law, LLC

Expert Testimony Not Admissible to Prove Causation in Legal Malpractice Suits

Our Atlanta injury lawyers know that it is vital to hire the right kind of attorney with solid experience when dealing with personal injury cases. So we were interested to see a recent decision by the Georgia Supreme Court holding that a plaintiff in a legal malpractice action may not present expert testimony that he or she would have won the underlying lawsuit but for the lawyer’s errors. The case, Leibel v. Johnson, clarifies that in legal malpractice cases, expert testimony is only allowed for proving standard of care and breach of duty, not proximate cause. Justice Harold Melton explained that this is due to the fact that it is the jury’s role to decide on its own whether the plaintiff would have won the underlying case but for the attorney’s negligent representation.

The underlying case was a gender and age discrimination case. Steven Leibel represented plaintiff Dr. Mary Johnson, a pediatric neurosurgeon, against Scottish Rite Hospital. The suit for malpractice claimed that Mr. Leibel failed to introduce evidence that would have shown there were issues of fact for a jury to decide in the discrimination action. In the malpractice case, Dr. Johnson called a legal expert, Peter Spanos, who testified that certain evidence “tipped the balanceof the underlying discrimination case in Dr. Johnson’s favor. The trial jury awarded Dr. Johnson $2 million. The trial court granted Mr. Leibel a new trial, but the appeals court reversed and upheld the $2 million jury award. The Court of Appeals held that the testimony was admissible due to the “legal complexitiesof her discrimination case and was useful when a nonlawyer could not competently determine whether the negligence of the defendant lawyer proximately caused the plaintiff’s damages.

The Supreme Court of Georgia reversed, with Justice Melton saying “the second jury in the malpractice case is not deciding what the first jury would have done in the underlying case had the attorney not been negligent, but only what a reasonable jury would have done had the underlying case been tried without the attorney negligence alleged by the plaintiff.The jury in the malpractice action needs to determine whether the plaintiff has a winning case, in other words, not whether some prior jury may or may not have believed the plaintiff had a winning case. In so holding, it disagreed with the appellate ruling concluding jurors could not resolve this issue without legal knowledge. Justice Melton wrote that it is inappropriate for the second jury to determine what the first jury would have done, but instead needs to decide the case on the merits.

If you or someone in your family needs legal assistance for a personal injury case, the experienced Atlanta injury attorneys at Van Sant Law, LLC can assist you. Choosing the right attorney to represent you is an important step in the process to avoid the issues raised in the Leibel case above. Call us today at 404-991-5950, or fill out our confidential online case evaluation form for a free consultation.

Have You Been The Victim Of Medical Malpractice?

If you or a loved one has been injured due to a medical error you need to speak with a medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our office directly at 855.GA.INJURY or 404.991.5950 to schedule your free consultation.

David M. Van Sant
Atlanta personal injury lawyer dedicated to helping clients throughout GA get the compensation they deserve.
Stopwatch

Time is Running Out!

Georgia gives you a limited amount of time for you to file a claim. Call us now for a free consultation.

24-7 Support

(855) GA-INJURY

404-991-5950

Atlanta

307 14th St NW #100
Atlanta, GA 30318

404-991-5950

(855) GA-INJURY

Office Info
Get Directions

Duluth

3675 Crestwood Pkwy NW #400-A
Duluth, GA 30096

678-771-9001

(855) GA-INJURY

Office Info
Get Directions

Alpharetta

11175 Cicero Drive, Suite #100-A
Alpharetta, GA 30022

678-679-6710

(855) GA-INJURY

Office Info
Get Directions

Lawrenceville

113 S Perry St #205
Lawrenceville, GA 30046

678-771-9000

(855) GA-INJURY

Office Info
Get Directions

Athens

824 S Milledge Ave #203
Athens, GA 30605

706-395-5529

(855) GA-INJURY

Office Info
Get Directions

Sandy Springs

6095 Lake Forrest Dr NE #250-A
Atlanta, GA 30328

678-679-6711

(855) GA-INJURY

Office Info
Get Directions

Cumming

123 Tribble Gap Rd #100
Cumming, GA 30040

770-886-9199

(855) GA-INJURY

Office Info
Get Directions

Gainesville

311 Green Street NW, Suite 400
Gainesville, GA 30501

678-771-9019

(855) GA-INJURY

Office Info
Get Directions

©2019 Van Sant Law, LLC, All Rights Reserved, Reproduced with Permission Privacy Policy | Site Map