Professional Negligence

Business trial lawyers at Mark Anchor Albert and Associates are steeped in the law and analysis of professional negligence claims and related causes of action, achieving millions of dollars in recoveries for their clients.

Attorneys, architects, and engineers, like doctors, are skilled professionals who must meet certain minimum standards of care in the provision of professional services to their clients. The elements of a cause of action in tort for professional negligence are “(1) the duty of the professional to use such skill, prudence, and diligence as other members of his profession commonly possess and exercise; (2) a breach of that duty; (3) a proximate causal connection between the negligent conduct and the resulting injury; and (4) actual loss or damage resulting from the professional’s negligence.” Budd v. Nixen (1971) 6 Cal. 3d 195, 200; Carlton v. Quint (2000) 77 Cal.App.4th 690, 699.

California Rules of Professional Conduct (for Attorneys), rule 3-110 (Failing to Act Competently) provides:

(A) A member shall not intentionally, recklessly, or repeatedly fail to perform legal services with competence.

(B) For purposes of this rule, “competence” in any legal service shall mean to apply the 1) diligence, 2) learning and skill, and 3) mental, emotional, and physical ability reasonably necessary for the performance of such service.

(C) If a member does not have sufficient learning and skill when the legal service is undertaken, the member may nonetheless perform such services competently by 1) associating with or, where appropriate, professionally consulting another lawyer reasonably believed to be competent, or 2) by acquiring sufficient learning and skill before performance is required.

Lawyers who hold themselves out as specialists “must exercise the skill, prudence, and diligence exercised by other specialists of ordinary skill and capacity specializing in the same field.” Wright v. Williams (1975) 47 Cal.App.3d 802, 810. The standard of care for claims related to a specialist’s expertise is determined by expert testimony. Id. at pp. 810–811. However, if the failure to exercise due care is so clear that a trier of fact may find professional negligence without expert assistance, then expert testimony is not required: In other words, if the attorney’s negligence is readily apparent from the facts of the case, then the testimony of an expert may not be necessary. See Stanley v. Richmond (1995) 35 Cal.App.4th 1070, 1093.

An architect also must exercise such care, skill, and diligence as others who are engaged in the profession would ordinarily exercise under similar circumstances, and statutory provisions regulating the profession of architecture may expressly so provide. See 6 C.J.S. Architects § 16 (2004). Architects and engineers are treated the same in this regard. “The engineer’s undertaking in respect to the plans he prepares is comparable to that of an architect, which in the absence of a special agreement is not an absolute guaranty that satisfactory results will ensue.” Bonadiman-McCain, Inc. v. Snow (1960) 183 Cal. App. 2d 58, 70.

“With respect to professionals, their specialized education and training do not serve to impose an increased duty of care but rather are considered additional ‘circumstances’ relevant to an overall assessment of what constitutes ‘ordinary prudence’ in a particular situation.” Flowers v. Torrance Memorial Hospital Medical Center (1994) 8 Cal. 4th 992, 997–998 (1994). “Since the standard of care remains constant in terms of ‘ordinary prudence,’ it is clear that denominating a cause of action as one for ‘professional negligence’ does not transmute its underlying character. For substantive purposes, it merely serves to establish the basis by which ‘ordinary prudence’ will be calculated and the defendant’s conduct will be evaluated.” Ibid.

If you have suffered due to the professional negligence of an attorney, accountant or auditor, or architect or engineer, you may be entitled to substantial compensation for your losses. Los Angeles trial lawyers at Mark Anchor Albert and Associates have the experience, skill, and intelligence to fight and win for you at the highest levels, no matter how difficult your case may seem.