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Singh v. Krueger

May 9, 2008

NARVINDER SINGH, APPELLANT,
v.
DONALD C. KRUEGER, APPELLEE.



Appeal from Lyon District Court; STEVEN L. HORNBAKER, judge.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

1. In Kansas, in order to prevail on a legal malpractice claim, a plaintiff is required to prove: (1) the duty of the attorney to exercise ordinary skill and knowledge; (2) a breach of that duty; (3) a causal connection between the breach of duty and the resulting injury; and (4) actual loss or damage.

2. Generally, expert testimony is required to establish the appropriate standard of care and causation because such matters are outside the knowledge of the average person. The standard of care in a legal malpractice case is whether the attorney has exercised ordinary skill and knowledge related to common professional practice.

3. The intricacies of the interplay between state and federal jurisdiction, the customs of a particular court, and the federal law surrounding immigration and deportation are all specialized areas of the law about which a lay juror would not know.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Marquardt, J.

Affirmed.

Before GREENE, P.J., PIERRON and MARQUARDT, JJ.

Narvinder Singh appeals the district court's dismissal of his breach of contract claim and the grant of summary judgment to Donald C. Krueger. We affirm.

Singh, an over-the-road truck driver, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to deliver marijuana and one count of no tax stamp after more than 300 pounds of marijuana were found in his semi-trailer truck. Singh claimed that he had no knowledge of the drugs and that they belonged to the other driver.

After he was charged, Singh retained Krueger to represent him. Singh claims that he was surprised when Krueger raised the issue of Singh pleading guilty because Singh knew that he was not guilty. However, Krueger was concerned that the large amount of marijuana would trigger federal prosecution and a possible prison sentence of 15 to 20 years. Singh estimated that Krueger spent less than 1 hour with him prior to the disposition of his criminal case.

Even though Singh is not a United States citizen, he is here legally. He testified that he expressed concerns to Krueger that a guilty plea would cause him to be deported. Krueger allegedly told Singh that he did not need to worry about that because "that's not going to happen." Singh ultimately pled guilty to the two charges and received a sentence of incarceration in March 2004.

In September 2004, Singh filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea, arguing that Krueger was ineffective because he spent less than 1 hour with Singh prior to his plea, never reviewed the affidavit in support of the complaint with Singh, failed to provide adequate information about the possibility of deportation, and was mistaken as to the likelihood of federal preemption.

The district court held a hearing to consider Singh's motion. The district court determined that Singh received ineffective assistance of counsel and set aside his plea. In the journal entry, the district court stated that were it not for Krueger's "unprofessional errors," there was a reasonable probability that Singh would have proceeded to trial. Singh served his sentence while his motion to withdraw his plea was pending. After he was allowed to withdraw his plea, Singh and the State entered a diversion agreement.

A disciplinary investigation determined that none of Krueger's actions rose to the level of ...


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