Balames v. Ginn No. S-13-1027: Nebraska Supreme Court Reinstates Jury Verdict for an Attorney in Legal Malpractice Case

The Supreme Court of Nebraska has vacated a trial court’s order granting a client’s motion for a new trial, and affirmed a jury verdict in favor an attorney. In Balames v. Ginn, a client filed a legal malpractice claim against his attorney, alleging that he had negligently failed to obtain the signatures of the client’s business partners as guarantors of a person loan the client made to the business. When the business subsequently defaulted on the loan, the client first discovered that the partners had never signed the loan agreement, and the guaranty was therefore unenforceable against them.

At the trial of the malpractice action, the client successfully moved for a directed verdict on the attorney’s contributory negligence defense. The trial court granted the client’s motion, reasoning that the attorney was liable for malpractice as a matter of law, and thus any negligence of the client was irrelevant. However, the attorney continually referenced the client’s acts and omissions throughout the trial. The case went to the jury, which found in favor of the attorney. In response, the client filed a motion for a new trial, which the court granted.

The attorney appealed to the Supreme Court of Nebraska, which determined that there was a genuine dispute as to who was responsible for obtaining the guarantors’ signatures. Therefore, the client’s conduct was relevant to proving whether or not it was the attorney who had caused the client’s damages, and it was error to set aside the jury’s verdict. The Court remanded the case with instructions to reinstate the verdict for the attorney.

Decision: Balames v. Ginn

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