Is an Expert Needed to Prove Legal Malpractice?

Plaintiff, licensed dental hygienist, appealed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of a law firm on Plaintiff’s claims that included legal malpractice. Plaintiff claimed that the law firm’s advice caused her to lose her job. She argued, inter alia, that the district court erred and that no legal malpractice expert testimony was required to create a material issue of fact regarding Defendants’ alleged breach of the standard of care. 

Plaintiff was hired by a dentist, and as part of her employment, she administered local anesthesia to patients. The New Mexico Board of Dental Health Care’s Dental Hygienist Committee (Committee), subsequently informed her that the Board’s records didn’t indicate she ever applied for or had been issued a Local Anesthesia Permit in New Mexico. The Committee voted to refer Plaintiff’s case to the Attorney General’s Office for the issuance of a Notice of Contemplated Action (NCA) for the violation of state statute. 

Plaintiff emailed Defendant Law Firm, explaining the situation with the Board and indicating that she was “already certified,” but that she couldn’t locate a copy of the certificate. Plaintiff stated that she’d sent the Board proof of the requisite coursework and proof of her licensure to administer anesthesia in other states. Defendants responded to Plaintiff’s email and asked Plaintiff if she was currently working, and advised that “[t]he [B]oard has not yet issued a ‘[c]ease and [d]esist’ so you should be able to work.” 

Read the rest of the decision at ForensisGroup.