Legal malpractice: Defense of Judgmental Immunity Recognized in D.C.

In Biomet, Inc. v. Finnegan Henderson LLP, No. 07-CV-813 (D.C. March 19, 2009), the Court formally recognized the defense of judgmental immunity in legal malpractice actions. Concerning this defense, the Court stated the following:

Essentially, the judgmental immunity doctrine provides that an informed professional judgment made with reasonable care and skill cannot be the basis of a legal malpractice claim. Central to the doctrine is the understanding that an attorney's judgmental immunity and an attorney's obligation to exercise reasonable care coexist such that an attorney's non-liability for strategic decisions 'is conditioned upon the attorney acting in good faith and upon an informed judgment after undertaking reasonable research of the relevant legal principals and facts of the given case.'

Id. The Court also observed that if judgmental immunity were not recognized as a defense, that would

"mean that 'every losing litigant would be able to sue his attorney if he could find another attorney who was willing to second
guess the decisions of the first attorney with the advantage of hindsight.'

The Court also pointed out that "no claim of legal malpractice will be actionable for an attorney's reasoned exercise of informed judgment on an unsettled proposition of law." Id., at p. 10. This unsettled law exception to malpractice liabiity is a specific application of the judgmental immunity doctrine.