The Appellate Group

Kendall v. Utah Estate Planners

Kendall v. Utah Estate Planners, 2023 UT App 82 (Harris, J.)

Legal Malpractice

Kendall sued an estate attorney and the attorney’s employer, Utah Estate Planners, related to the advice the attorney had given to the Trust. In a bench trial, the district court dismissed the suit after Kendall failed to designate an expert witness to testify about the attorney’s standard of care. The Utah Court of Appeals affirmed, holding:

  • The district court did not err in dismissing Kendall’s legal malpractice claim because an expert was needed to testify about standard of care.
  • Practice Tip: Expert testimony is required in jury trials where the average person won’t understand the duties owed, including legal duties. Here, the same standard applies generally in all legal malpractice cases whether tried to the bench or to a jury.
  • Practice Tip: Allowing a trial judge to effectively fulfill the role of standard-of-care expert may present due process problems—among a whole host of other problems.
  • Practice Tip: Utah law is clear that “violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct” do not necessarily “give rise to a cause of action for legal malpractice.”

Read the full court opinion