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Legal malpractice claim OK sans expert

What does it take for a dissatisfied divorce client to sue his lawyer? His own opinion may be enough.

A husband unhappy with the outcome of his case responded to his lawyer’s bill with a claim for legal malpractice. The lawyer said that without an expert witness, the client had no case.

The defendant, James Cottrell, raised this issue with the court, after the deadline for designation of witnesses passed, and again at the close of discovery. Once, twice, Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Jonathan C. Thacher denied Cottrell’s motion for summary judgment.

Thacher said in Jacokes v. Cottrell that he could not “find any Virginia Case holding that expert testimony in a malpractice action is required as a matter of law, and this Court declines to do so either….

“Even though it is rare for a malpractice case to be proven without expert testimony, it is possible,” Thacher said, inviting the defendant to seek summary judgment again “after Plaintiff has rested.”

By Deborah Elkins

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