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Thursday, January 23, 2020

Idaho Supreme Court affirms malpractice decision, clarifies statute of limitations rule

By John Revak | Jun 14, 2017

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BOISE, Idaho (Legal Newsline) – Earlier this month, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed a district court decision on a legal malpractice case in favor of a lawyer.

The plaintiff, Christina Greenfield, had sued her former lawyer, Ian Smith, alleging a litany of different violations and misconduct.  

In addition to other offenses, the suit claimed that Smith failed to a file a motion for summary judgment and failed to complete discovery in a 2012 civil case in which he represented Greenfield.

Smith moved for summary judgment, arguing that the suit was barred by a two-year statute of limitations on malpractice suits and that Greenfield’s failure to designate an expert witness left her unable to prove the prima facie elements of malpractice.

The district court granted Smith’s motion for summary judgment and the Supreme Court has now affirmed. However, the state Supreme Court did disagree with parts of the verdict.

Greenfield claimed that the lower court had miscalculated the time she had to file the complaint under the statute of limitations for malpractice suits.

The district court deemed that she had filed the suit one day late, but she contended that because the case was resolved on a Sunday, a holiday, the statute of limitations didn’t start to run until the next day, Monday. Under this logic, Greenfield's claim would’ve been filed within the allotted time.

The court found this argument compelling and ruled the district court had erred when it said the claim was barred.

“Nov. 30, 2014, was a holiday so it was excluded from the two-year statute of limitations,” Justice Robyn Brody said in her opinion.

As a result, Greenfield was no longer required to pay Smith’s attorneys fees as the district court had ruled. However, because of Greenfield’s inability to produce an expert witness, the verdict granting Smith’s motion for summary judgment was affirmed

“Without expert testimony, Greenfield could not demonstrate that there were genuine issues of material fact as to whether Smith’s performance fell below the standard of care or proximately caused her damages,” Brody said.

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