Justia South Dakota Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Professional Malpractice & Ethics
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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part the judgment of the circuit court entering summary judgment in favor of Attorney in this legal malpractice action and dismissing the action, holding that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in allowing Attorney's amendment to her answer but erred in determining that Plaintiff's claims were untimely under S.D. Codified Laws 15-2-14.2. Plaintiff brought this action against Attorney and Law Firm arising from Attorney's representation of Plaintiff on a claim for personal injuries. The circuit court determined that the action was time barred by section 15-2-14.2 and dismissed the action. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that the circuit court (1) did not abuse its discretion by permitting Attorney to amend her answer to allege section 15-2-14.2 as an affirmative defense; but (2) erred in determining that this action was barred by the repose period under section 15-2-14.2. View "Robinson-Podoll v. Harmelink, Fox, & Ravnsborg Law Office" on Justia Law

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In this legal malpractice action against Plaintiff's former attorneys the Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court granting one attorney's motion to dismiss based on lack of personal jurisdiction and granted summary judgment in favor of all the former attorneys, holding that while the court erred when it dismissed one attorney for lack of personal jurisdiction it correctly granted summary judgment to that attorney and the other defendants. Plaintiff, a physician, filed this action against three attorneys he retained to prosecute a legal malpractice claim against his former divorce attorney. The court granted one attorney's motion to dismiss, finding it lacked personal jurisdiction due to insufficient minimum contacts in South Dakota. The court then granted summary judgment for all the defendants. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court erred when it determined it did not have personal jurisdiction over one attorney because that attorney's conduct and connection with South Dakota were such that it could reasonably anticipate being haled into a South Dakota court; but (2) because Plaintiff failed to establish a submissible case of legal malpractice against the defendants the circuit court correctly granted summary judgment. View "Zhang v. Rasmus" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and in part reversed the judgment of the circuit court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants, a physical therapy company and a hospital, on Plaintiffs’ negligence claims, holding that the physical therapist failed to demonstrate an absence of any genuine issue of material fact. The plaintiff patient in this case was diagnosed with a fractured femur after a physical therapy session following her hip surgery. Plaintiffs, the patient and her husband, alleged that the physical therapist was negligent during the physical therapy session and that the hospital was negligent in failing timely to diagnose the fractured femur. The circuit court granted Defendants’ motions for summary judgment. The Supreme Court held (1) the circuit court correctly granted the hospital summary judgment because Plaintiffs were required to, but did not, support their claim with proper expert testimony; and (2) there was sufficient evidence in the record to create a material issue of fact concerning whether the physical therapist deviated from the required standard of care. View "Hanson v. Big Stone Therapies, Inc." on Justia Law

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Total Auctions and Real Estate, LLC (Total Auctions) was a licensed automobile dealer that intended to hold automobile auctions in Lincoln County. Total Auctions met with a dealer agent employed by the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) on how to comply with the applicable law. Total Auctions informed the agent that its business plan included the sale of vehicles consigned from dealers outside Lincoln County, the county of Total Auctions’ place of business. The agent failed to inform Total Auctions that state law prohibited auctioning vehicles consigned from dealers outside Lincoln County. After incurring expenses setting up its business, Total Auctions was informed that there was a problem with the out-of-county consignments. Total Auctions sued the DMV agent, the DMV, its director, and the Department of Revenue and Regulation, alleging negligence and negligent supervision. The court of appeals dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because Total Auctions’ claimed damages were caused by the agent’s alleged misrepresentation of law, relief was barred as to all claims because misrepresentations of law are not actionable. View "Total Auctions & Real Estate, LLC v. S.D. Department of Revenue & Regulation" on Justia Law

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Westside Gilts RE, LLC submitted an application to the Beadle County Planning Commission for a conditional use permit (CUP) to construct and operate a concentrated animal feeding operation. The Planning Commission recommended approval of the CUP. The Beadle County Board of Adjustment (Board) approved the CUP. Petitioners appealed, arguing that the Board was without authority to issue the CUP because the county zoning ordinances passed in 2011 (Ordinances), which authorized the Board to grant the permit, were improperly enacted. The circuit court reversed the Board’s decision granting the CUP, concluding that the Ordinances were improperly enacted. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the circuit court’s ruling reversing the Board’s decision to grant the CUP, holding that the Ordinances were invalid because the Planning Commission failed to comply with S.D. Codified Laws 11-2-18, and therefore, the Board lacked jurisdiction to grant a CUP; but (2) reversed the circuit court’s order declaring the Ordinances invalid, as the order exceeded the options available to the court under its limited scope of review on certiorari. View "Wedel v. Beadle County Comm’n" on Justia Law

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Matthew and Caralynn Fonder purchased a home and obtained a mortgage from Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. Wells Fargo selected Wells Fargo Insurance, Inc. Flood Services (WFFS) to conduct a flood hazard determination on the Fonders’ home. WFFS determined the home was not in a special flood hazard area, and therefore, the Bank did not require the Fonders to obtain flood insurance. A flood later destroyed the Fonders’ home. Wells Fargo later filed a complaint to foreclose on the Fonders’ home. The Fonders cross-claimed against WFFS seeking to recover damages sustained a result of their reliance on WFFS’s erroneous flood determination. The circuit court dismissed the cross-claim for failure to state a claim and dismissed the Fonders’ motion to amend their third-party complaint to assert a claim of negligent misrepresentation on the grounds that WFFS did not owe the Fonders a duty. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the circuit court erred when it dismissed the Fonders’ claims for professional negligence and negligent infliction of emotional distress but did not err in dismissing the Fonders’ breach-of-fiduciary duty claim; and (2) upon remand, the Fonders may amend their cross-claim to include negligent misrepresentation. View "Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v. Fonder" on Justia Law

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Matthew and Caralynn Fonder purchased a home and obtained a mortgage from Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. Wells Fargo selected Wells Fargo Insurance, Inc. Flood Services (WFFS) to conduct a flood hazard determination on the Fonders’ home. WFFS determined the home was not in a special flood hazard area, and therefore, the Bank did not require the Fonders to obtain flood insurance. A flood later destroyed the Fonders’ home. Wells Fargo later filed a complaint to foreclose on the Fonders’ home. The Fonders cross-claimed against WFFS seeking to recover damages sustained a result of their reliance on WFFS’s erroneous flood determination. The circuit court dismissed the cross-claim for failure to state a claim and dismissed the Fonders’ motion to amend their third-party complaint to assert a claim of negligent misrepresentation on the grounds that WFFS did not owe the Fonders a duty. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the circuit court erred when it dismissed the Fonders’ claims for professional negligence and negligent infliction of emotional distress but did not err in dismissing the Fonders’ breach-of-fiduciary duty claim; and (2) upon remand, the Fonders may amend their cross-claim to include negligent misrepresentation. View "Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v. Fonder" on Justia Law

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After Fannie Mae foreclosed upon and acquired the home at issue in this case, Fannie Mae hired Hayman Residential Engineering Services, Inc. to prepare a structural engineering report on the home. Based on the report, Fannie Mae made some of the recommended repairs. Fannie Mae subsequently sold the home to buyers, who then sold the home to Roger and Dorothy Johnson. Thereafter, the Johnsons discovered that the estimated cost of making all necessary repairs to the home exceeded its value. The Johnsons filed a professional negligence claim against Hayman. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Hayman, concluding that Hayman did not owe the Johnsons a duty. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Hayman did not owe a professional duty to the Johnsons because they did not suffer a foreseeable harm stemming from Hayman’s alleged negligence, and therefore, a professional negligence claim could not be established. View "Johnson v. Hayman & Assocs., Inc." on Justia Law

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Appellant filed claims of legal malpractice and breach of fiduciary duty against his former attorneys (Appellees) based on an alleged conflict of interest relating to Appellees’ representation of his co-defendants in an underlying lawsuit. The circuit court granted summary judgment for Appellees and dismissed Appellant’s claims. The Supreme Court held that summary judgment was improper. Specifically, the Court held that the circuit court (1) erred in striking Appellant’s expert opinion; (2) did not err by finding collateral estoppel precluded litigation of the limited issue of whether Hamilton signed a conflict of interest waiver; and (3) improperly weighed evidence in granting summary judgment regarding proximate cause. Remanded. View "Hamilton v. Sommers" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs brought a breach of contract action against H&S Builders, Inc. and retained Defendants to defend them in the lawsuit. Plaintiffs fired Defendants during the proceedings and hired a new attorney to assist them. The case was eventually settled. Plaintiffs then commenced this legal malpractice case against Defendants, claiming that Defendant failed properly to represent their interests in the action brought against H&S. The circuit court entered a default judgment as to liability in favor of Plaintiffs but concluded that Plaintiffs failed to prove they suffered any damages that were proximately caused by Defendants’ negligent representation. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not clearly err in finding that Plaintiffs failed to prove damages sustained as a proximately result of Defendants’ conduct. View "Peterson v. Issenhuth" on Justia Law