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Greenfield v. Smith

Supreme Court of Idaho

June 6, 2017

CHRISTINA J. GREENFIELD, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
IAN D. SMITH, Defendant-Respondent.

         2017 Opinion No. 59

         Appeal from the District Court of the First Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Kootenai County. Hon. Cynthia K.C. Meyer, District Judge.

          Christina J. Greenfield, Post Falls, appellant pro se argued.

          Randall/Daskin, P.S., Spokane, Washington, for respondent. Troy Y. Nelson argued.

          BRODY, Justice.

         This is a legal malpractice case that addresses the statute of limitations applicable to professional malpractice claims, how a statute of limitations is calculated when the last day for filing a complaint falls on a Sunday, and whether expert testimony is necessary to establish the prima facie elements of legal malpractice. Greenfield appeals the district court's decision to grant summary judgment in favor of the attorney. We affirm.

         I.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Greenfield hired Smith in September 2010 to represent her in a civil suit against her neighbors, Eric and Rosalynn Wurmlinger, for the alleged illegal operation of a bed and breakfast in their home. While the suit was pending, Greenfield was charged criminally with malicious injury to the Wurmlingers' property. Greenfield retained Smith to represent her in the criminal matter as well.

         Smith represented Greenfield for approximately eighteen months. During that time, Greenfield was acquitted of the criminal charges. The civil case was scheduled to go to trial in May 2012. In February 2012, Smith filed a motion to withdraw from representing Greenfield. Smith's basis for the motion was that the attorney-client relationship had broken down to the point where he was no longer able to represent Greenfield. The district court granted the motion on March 8, 2012.

         Following Smith's withdrawal, the district court rescheduled the civil trial for November 26, 2012. Greenfield represented herself at trial, and the jury returned a verdict in favor of the neighbors on November 30, 2012. The jury awarded $52, 000 in damages for negligent infliction of emotional distress and $17, 000 in damages for timber trespass which were then trebled. The district court also awarded the neighbors' attorney's fees and costs. The total judgment entered by the district court was $168, 755.37. Greenfield appealed to this Court, and we affirmed the judgment and awarded additional attorney's fees and costs to the neighbors. Greenfield v. Wurmlinger, 158 Idaho 591, 349 P.3d 1182 (2015).

         On December 1, 2014, Greenfield filed this malpractice case against Smith, alleging, among other things, that he failed to complete discovery, failed to file a motion for summary judgment on the Wurmlingers' counterclaim for intentional infliction of emotional distress, failed to amend the complaint to include additional causes of action for abuse of process, slander and libel, failed to file a timely motion for protective order to safeguard the privacy of her medical records, missed several important deadlines, and made no attempt to get the criminal charges dismissed for lack of evidence. Smith filed a motion for summary judgment on July 30, 2015, arguing that Greenfield's claims were time barred and that she could not prove the prima facie elements of legal malpractice because she failed to designate any expert witnesses. Greenfield opposed the motion by filing a responsive brief and her own affidavit setting forth the allegations she claimed supported her malpractice claim. Greenfield did not file any expert affidavits. Greenfield argued that her complaint was timely and that no expert witness was required to prove her case. The district court granted Smith's motion. Greenfield appealed.

         II.

         ISSUES PRESENTED ON APPEAL

         1. Whether the district court erred in determining that Smith's claims for professional malpractice were time-barred.

          2. Whether the district court erred in granting Smith's motion for summary judgment where Greenfield failed to submit any expert affidavits concerning ...


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