Laughlin v. PerryAnnotate this Case
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court affirming a jury's verdict in favor of Respondent on his legal malpractice claim, holding that public defenders are entitled to official immunity.
Appellants were public defenders who were assigned to represent Respondent at his criminal trial. Appellant was found guilty. The Supreme Court later issued a writ of habeas corpus concluding that the circuit court lacked jurisdiction to prosecute Respondent. Respondent sued Appellants alleging legal malpractice and breach of fiduciary obligation for their failure to assert the jurisdictional challenge during their representation of him. The jury returned a verdict in Respondent's favor. Appellants filed a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict alleging that they were shielded from liability due to official immunity. The circuit court overruled the motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that public defenders have official immunity because they are public employees whose official statutory duties concern the performance of discretionary acts.