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EXPERTS CAN DEPEND ON ATTORNEYS IF SUED Expert witnesses may seek indemnification from the attorneys who hired them if subsequently sued for professional negligence, a state appeal court ruled Thursday. San Diego’s Fourth District Court of Appeal issued the decision in a case in which the family of a man killed in a forklift accident sued Malcolm Robbins and Forensis Group Inc., the expert witnesses in their $1.5 million product liability case. They claimed that the experts, retained by San Diego’s Frantz, Townsend & Foldenauer, misrepresented their expertise. The experts cross-complained, alleging that Frantz had a duty to indemnify in the malpractice suit. The trial court granted the law firm summary judgment, but the Fourth District reversed, saying that public policy supports experts’ claims for equitable indemnity under relevant circumstances and when considered on a case-by-case basis. “Experts were not involved in legal strategy, but rather supplied expertise based on the physical facts of the underlying case, within the applicable legal standards as supplied to them by counsel,” Justice Richard Huffman wrote. “Consequently . . . the concurrently acting litigation participants, experts, should ordinarily be permitted to sue law firm for equitable indemnification of professional malpractice damages for which they have become liable.” Justices Judith McConnell and Patricia Benke concurred. The justices also said the situation presented no conflict with attorney-client privilege. “There is no real danger that law firm must breach its duty of loyalty or confidentiality to the original client . . . in order to defend against experts’ cross-complaint for indemnity,” Huffman wrote. “Experts are not seeking to enforce professional duties owed to them by law firm, but rather are seeking to prove joint tortfeasor status with law firm.” The full text of Forensis Group v. Frantz, Townsend & Foldenauer, D044211, will appear in Monday’s California Daily Opinion Service. — Mike McKee

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