Justia Wisconsin Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Professional Malpractice & Ethics
Allsop Venture Partners III v. Murphy Desmond SC
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the circuit court in this legal malpractice case, holding that there was no error.A media company entered into a purportedly tax-friendly sale with the assistance of a tax law firm, an accounting firm, and Murphy Desmond. After the deal closed and the shareholders had received their payout, the IRS levied various taxes and penalties against the shareholders. Several shareholders brought suit. Terry and Sandy Shockley intervened and filed a complaint against all three entities. The Shockleys subsequently settled with two entities, leaving them with a legal malpractice claim against Murphy Desmond. The jury found Murphy Desmond negligent in part, but the circuit court concluded that it was entitled to indemnification from the entities who settled, leaving the Shockleys with no further recovery. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, in accord with Fleming v. Thresherman's Mutual Insurance Co., 388 N.W.2d 908 (Wis. 1986), Murphy Desmond owed no damages to the Shockleys. View "Allsop Venture Partners III v. Murphy Desmond SC" on Justia Law
Skindzelewski v. Smith
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the circuit court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendant, Plaintiff's former criminal defense attorney, on Plaintiff's legal malpractice claim, holding that nothing about Plaintiff's case warranted developing an exception to the actual innocence rule.The actual innocence rule requires a criminal defendant who brings a legal malpractice action against his defense attorney to establish that the defendant did not commit the crime of which he was convicted. Plaintiff conceded that he was guilty but argued that Wisconsin courts should create an exception to the actual innocence rule. The circuit court declined to adopt a novel exception to prevailing law, applied the actual innocence rule, and granted summary judgment for Defendant. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiff failed to satisfy his burden of establishing a compelling reason to change existing law; and (2) because Plaintiff conceded guilt, his claim of legal malpractice was legally barred. View "Skindzelewski v. Smith" on Justia Law
Emer’s Camper Corral, LLC v. Western Heritage Insurance Co.
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the circuit court directing a verdict in favor of Defendant, an insurance agent, on Plaintiff's claim that Defendant was negligent because he procured an insurance policy that did not conform to Plaintiff's requirements, holding that Plaintiff must prove that it would have qualified for an insurance policy with better terms than the policy it actually obtained.Plaintiff sold new and used camper trailers. Plaintiff asked Defendant, an insurance agent, to acquire a policy to cover its camper inventory. Plaintiff thought Defendant had acquired a policy with a deductible for $1,000 per camper in the event of hail damage with a $5,000 aggregate deductible limit, but the policy actually required a $5,000 deductible per camper, with no aggregate limit. After a hailstorm damaged many of the campers on its lot, Plaintiff sued Defendant. The circuit court directed a verdict due to Plaintiff's failure to introduce evidence that an insurer would have insured Plaintiff with the deductible limits it thought it had. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff must not only prove that an insurance policy with the requested deductibles was commercially available but that Plaintiff would actually have qualified for that policy. View "Emer's Camper Corral, LLC v. Western Heritage Insurance Co." on Justia Law
Melchert v. Pro Electric Contractors
Petitioners brought suit against Pro Electric Contractors for negligence in connection with Pro Electric’s work as a contractor on a government construction project. Pro Electric argued that the damage at issue occurred because of construction design decisions made by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) and that Pro Electric was simply implementing DOT’s decisions. The district court granted summary judgment for Pro Electric. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the undisputed facts do not support a reasonable inference that Pro Electric failed to comply with its duties in Wis. Stat. 182.0175(2)(am). View "Melchert v. Pro Electric Contractors" on Justia Law
Office of Lawyer Regulation v. Mandelman
Although Michael Mandelman entered into a stipulation with the Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR), under which he pled no contest to 22 counts of misconduct and agreed that his license to practice law in Wisconsin should be revoked, he appealed from the report and recommendation of the referee, which was based on that stipulation. The court stated that “Essentially, he seeks ... to comment on certain characterizations and findings by the referee and to provide additional support for the referee's recommendation to make his revocation effective as of the date of his prior suspension, May 29, 2009. The court accepted the referee's factual findings and legal conclusions and agreed that the 22 counts of misconduct support the revocation of Mandelman's license to practice law effective as of the effective date of his prior suspension. Because the record was not sufficient to award restitution to any particular person, the court directed Mandelman to work with the OLR and his former colleague to determine who is owed money from trust accounts utilized by Mandelman and in what amounts. Because Mandelman litigated the matter vigorously prior to entering into the stipulation, the court ordered him to pay the full costs of the proceeding, which were $16,943.16. View "Office of Lawyer Regulation v. Mandelman" on Justia Law
Foley-Ciccantelli, et al. v. Bishop’s Grove Condominium Assoc., Inc
Plaintiffs filed a personal injury slip-and-fall action against defendants and defendants moved to disqualify plaintiffs' attorney. At issue was whether defendants had standing to bring a motion to disqualify plaintiffs' attorney where plaintiffs' attorney's law firm had previously represented defendants' exclusive property manager. Also at issue was whether the circuit court erred as a matter of law in applying an "appearance of impropriety" standard in deciding the motion for disqualification. The court held that defendants had standing to move to disqualify opposing counsel where defendants have shown that plaintiffs' attorney's prior representation was so connected with the current litigation that the prior representation was likely to affect the just and lawful determination of defendants' position. The court also held that the circuit court incorrectly applied the standard of law and should have determined the motion for disqualification based on an attorney's duty to a former client in SCR 20:1.9. Accordingly, the court reversed the order of the circuit court and remanded for further proceedings.