Appellants N.C. and Alethea Young, Ph.D., appealed superior court orders denying Dr. Young’s motion to quash a subpoena for N.C.’s psychological records issued by appellee, the New Hampshire Board of Psychologists (Board), and dismissing N.C.’s petition for a declaratory judgment to prevent the Board from obtaining the records. N.C. has been a patient of Young for many years, attending at least two therapy sessions per week since the age of two. In August 2013, when N.C. was still a minor, she informed Young that her father, S.C., had physically and emotionally abused her. According to Young, throughout her treatment of N.C., she witnessed what she described as S.C.’s aggressive and humiliating treatment of his daughter, both in public as well as in therapy sessions. In September, S.C. filed a written complaint against Young with the Board. The complaint alleged that Young had breached her professional obligations by: (1) becoming personally over-involved with N.C., thus sacrificing her objectivity; (2) providing counseling to both S.C. and his daughter, thus creating an insurmountable conflict of interest; (3) violating RSA 169-C:29 (2014) by failing to timely report suspected abuse of a child to DCYF; (4) violating RSA 633:1, I-a (2007) and 18 U.S.C. § 1201(a) (2012) by detaining and concealing N.C., who was a minor at the time, from S.C. when she drove N.C. to Vermont without S.C.’s knowledge or consent; and (5) failing to respect S.C.’s wishes that she no longer treat his daughter. On appeal, appellants argued that the trial court erred in enforcing the subpoena because the Board failed to establish that it had just cause to issue the subpoena. Appellants also contended that, even if just cause existed to issue the subpoena, once they objected, the subpoena could not be enforced by the court because the Board failed to sustain what, in their view, was the additional burden necessary to pierce the patient’s privilege by showing that there was a reasonable probability the records were relevant and material and that the Board had an essential need for them. Furthermore, appellants argued that, even if the Board met the burden necessary to pierce the privilege, the court erred in not conducting an in camera review of the records before ordering compliance with the subpoena in order to limit the scope of disclosure. After review, the New Hampshire Supreme Court agreed with appellants that the statute required a court order to obtain a patient’s records when there was an objection to compliance with a subpoena based upon a claim of privilege. However, the Court concluded that the trial court did not err in finding that, under the circumstances of this case, the privilege must yield to the Board’s proper exercise of its regulatory responsibilities with regard to its licensee, Dr. Young. View "N.C. v. New Hampshire Board of Psychologists" on Justia Law
Justia Professional Malpractice & Ethics Opinion Summaries
Plaintiff-client James Yager appealed a superior court order granting summary judgment to defendant-attorney K. William Clauson on the client’s legal malpractice claim and dismissing that claim as to defendant-law firm Clauson, Atwood & Spaneas. The client’s legal malpractice claim stems from the defendants’ representation of him in two timber trespass actions. In the first action, summary judgment was granted to Mighty Oaks, in part, because the client failed to prove that Mighty Oaks was the entity that cut the timber. In the second action, summary judgment was granted to D.H. Hardwick & Sons, Inc. because the action had been filed more than three years after the timber cutting had ceased and, thus, was barred by the applicable statute of limitations. The client filed the instant malpractice action against the defendants alleging that the applicable standard of care was breached because the Hardwick action was not timely filed. In this case, the trial court concluded that a legal expert was necessary for the plaintiff to prove “what result should have occurred” had the Hardwick action been timely filed. The client argues that this was error because he could have used the “trial-within-a-trial” method to prove this. After review, the Supreme Court held that, to the extent that the trial court determined that the trial-within-a-trial method was unavailable to the client, as a matter of law, the trial court erred. The Court found no error with regard to dismissal of claims against the defendant law firm. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Yager v. Clauson" on Justia Law
Petitioner David Stacy appealed a decision of the New Hampshire Bar Association Public Protection Fund Committee (PPFC) denying his claim for reimbursement for the fees and costs that he and his conservatorship estate paid to attorney Donald Wyatt. The PPFC found that the petitioner failed to demonstrate that the funds at issue were lost as a result of Wyatt’s embezzlement, conversion, or theft. Upon review, the Supreme Court found that the PPFC sustainably exercised its discretion when it denied petitioner's claims. View "Appeal of Stacy" on Justia Law
Defendants Robert Christy, Christy & Tessier, P.A., Debra Johnson, and Kathy Tremblay, appealed a superior court decision that rescinded a professional liability policy issued by Plaintiff Great American Insurance Company (GAIC), to the law firm of Christy & Tessier, P.A. Robert Christy (Christy) and Thomas Tessier (Tessier) were partners in the firm, practicing together for over forty-five years. In 1987, Frederick Jakobiec, M.D. (Jakobiec) retained Tessier to draft a will for him. In 2001, Jakobiec's mother, Beatrice Jakobiec (Beatrice), died intestate. Her two heirs were Jakobiec and his brother, Thaddeus Jakobiec (Thaddeus). Jakobiec asked Tessier, who was Beatrice's nephew, to handle the probate administration for his mother's estate. From 2002 through 2005, Tessier created false affidavits and powers of attorney, which he used to gain unauthorized access to estate accounts and assets belonging to Jakobiec and Thaddeus. Litigation ensued; two months after Tessier and Jakobiec entered into the settlement agreement, Christy executed a renewal application for professional liability coverage on behalf of the law firm. Question 6(a) on the renewal application asked: "After inquiry, is any lawyer aware of any claim, incident, act, error or omission in the last year that could result in a professional liability claim against any attorney of the Firm or a predecessor firm?" Christy's answer on behalf of the firm was "No." The trial court found that Christy's negative answer to the question in the renewal application was false "since Tessier at least knew of Dr. Jakobiec's claim against him in 2006." On appeal, the defendants argued that rescission was improper because: (1) Christy's answer to question 6(a) on the renewal application was objectively true; (2) rescission of the policy or denial of coverage would be substantially unfair to Christy and the other innocent insureds who neither knew nor could have known of Tessier's fraud; and (3) the alleged misrepresentation was made on a renewal application as opposed to an initial policy application. GAIC argued that rescission as to all insureds is the sole appropriate remedy given the material misrepresentations in the law firm's renewal application. Upon review, the Supreme Court held that the trial court erred as a matter of law in ruling that Tessier's knowledge is imputed to Christy and the other defendants thereby voiding the policy ab initio. The Court made no ruling, however, as to whether any of the defendants' conduct would result in non-coverage under the policy and remanded for further proceedings. View "Great American Insurance Company v. Christy" on Justia Law
Plaintiff Lorraine Tessier appealed a superior court order that granted Defendants' Regina Rockefeller and Nixon Peabody, LLP's motion to dismiss. The plaintiff is the wife of Thomas Tessier, an attorney who practiced at the law firm of Christy & Tessier in Manchester. Dr. Frederick Jakobiec hired Attorney Tessier to handle certain estate matters on his behalf. Attorney Rockefeller, an attorney employed by Nixon Peabody, and acting on behalf of Dr. Jakobiec, accused Attorney Tessier of misusing and converting substantial assets of the Jakobiec family to his own use. Plaintiff alleged that Attorney Rockefeller met with Attorney Tessier on numerous occasions and threatened him demanding an immediate return of the misappropriated assets. Attorney Rockefeller stated to Attorney Tessier that if he repaid the money no further action would be taken against him. Plaintiff alleged that over the next two years, Defendants "stripped" her and her husband of their individual and joint interests in all of their tangible assets. And despite a settlement agreement, and without notice to her or her husband, Defendants reported Attorney Tessier’s actions the attorney discipline office, and others. In addition, Dr. Jakobiec hired an attorney to bring suit against Attorney Tessier and to foreclose on the mortgage that was the subject of the settlement agreement. Plaintiff alleges that she suffered severe emotional and physical distress requiring hospitalization. Upon review, the Supreme Court reversed part of the trial court's decision, and affirmed part. The Court found there was sufficient facts pled to support multiple causes of action Plaintiff brought in her original lawsuit. The Court found that the trial court was correct in dismissing Plaintiff's allegations of abuse of process and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The Court remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Tessier v. Rockefeller" on Justia Law
Petitioner Harold French appealed a decision of the New Hampshire Board of Auctioneers (Board) that sanctioned him for submitting a fictitious bid at an auction. In 2009, Petitioner attended an auction run by another auctioneer and registered as a bidder under his own name. Of the items for sale, Petitioner asked the auctioneer about a particular painting that had a set reserve price of $10,000. When the bid reached $9,000, Petitioner bid $9,500. He later testified before the Board that he did not intend to purchase the painting, but sought to protect the reserve and ensure the painting was sold. No one else bid on the painting. The owner believed he had waived the reserve when he had gestured to the auctioneer following Petitioner’s bid. The owner subsequently requested payment for the painting from Petitioner. However, the auctioneer told the owner that the painting did not sell because the reserve was not met. The owner filed a complaint with the Board, and the Board subsequently issued its sanction against Petitioner. Upon review, the Supreme Court found that the evidence presented against Petitioner supported the Board’s findings and sanction. The Court affirmed the Board’s decision.