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TX: Lawyer and Non-Lawyer Experts in Legal Mal Litigiation

Allbritton v. Gillespie, Rozen, Tanner & Watsky, P.C.180 S.W.3d 889 (Tex. App. 2005)

TX:  Underlying Contract Litigation

Student Contributor: Evan Kusnitz

Facts: Attorneys represented Client 1 and Client 2 in a breach of contract suit against their employer. Attorneys told the two clients to calculate their own damages for presentation at the trial. Client 2 had a financial background; Client 1 did not. Both clients testified at trial regarding their damages. The jury found for both clients on the breach of contract claim. However, while it awarded Client 2 $4,000,000, it awarded nothing to Client 1.

In Client 1’s subsequent malpractice suit against Attorneys, he alleged that Attorneys were negligent because they failed to hire a damages expert, because Client 1 had no financial background. In response to Attorneys’ summary judgment motion, Client 1 filed two affidavits: one from Expert Attorney, and the other from Expert Accountant.

Issue: Can a non-lawyer provide expert testimony in a legal malpractice case?

Ruling: Yes. A non-lawyer expert may testify to an issue in controversy that is within his expertise. Furthermore, sometimes an expert attorney’s testimony is insufficient to establish causation, and a non-legal expert would be required. See Rangel v. Lapin, 177 S.W.3d 17 (Tex. App. 2005) (accident reconstruction expert needed in addition to attorney expert).

Lesson: A non-lawyer expert can testify in a legal malpractice case to matters within his expertise. 

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Posted in: Expert Witnesses, Litigation, Texas