What is legal malpractice?
Legal malpractice occurs when an attorney causes harm to his or her client through the attorney’s negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, or breach of contract during the course of representation. In order to prevail in a cause of action for legal malpractice in South Carolina, the plaintiff must prove: (1) the existence of an attorney-client relationship; (2) a breach of duty by the attorney; (3) damage to the client; and (4) proximate cause of the client’s damages by the breach. Rydde v. Morris, 381 S.C. 643, 646, 675 S.E.2d 431, 433 (2009). “In South Carolina, attorneys are required to render services with the degree of skill, care, knowledge, and judgment usually possessed and exercised by members of the profession,” Holy Loch Distribs., Inc. v. Hitchcock, 340 S.C. 20, 26, 531 S.E.2d 282, 285 (2000), and “[t]he standard to be applied in determining legal malpractice issues is statewide,” Smith v. Haynsworth, Marion, McKay & Geurard, 322 S.C. 433, 437-38, 472 S.E.2d 612, 614 (1996).
Further, a plaintiff in a legal malpractice action in South Carolina must establish this standard of care by expert testimony.