Justia Professional Malpractice & Ethics Opinion Summaries

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After Plaintiff was terminated from his employment from Bath Iron Works (BIW), Plaintiff grieved the termination. The Local S7 Union Grievance Committee voted not to arbitrate the grievance. Thereafter, represented by Attorney John R. Lemieux, Plaintiff filed a complaint against the Union and BIW, alleging breach of the collective bargaining agreement and discrimination. The magistrate judge issued a recommended decision granting a summary judgment in favor of BIW and the Union. The superior court affirmed the magistrate judge’s recommended decision, and the court of appeals affirmed. Plaintiff then filed this action against Lemieux, alleging legal malpractice, breach of fiduciary duty, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. The superior court granted summary judgment in favor of Lemieux, concluding that Plaintiff failed to put forth prima facie evidence of causation. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that summary judgment was proper because Plaintiff failed to put forth prima facie evidence of causation to support his claims. View "Brooks v. Lemieux" on Justia Law

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Following a disciplinary sanction, a judge was not recommended for retention by the Alaska Judicial Council. Although the judge chose not to campaign, an independent group supported his retention and campaigned on his behalf. After the election the Alaska Commission on Judicial Conduct filed a disciplinary complaint against the judge and later imposed an informal private admonishment on the judge because he did not publicly address allegedly misleading statements made by the independent group. Because the statements clearly originated with the independent group rather than the judge, and the judge had no knowledge of one statement, the judge had no duty to publicly address any of the statements. Accordingly, we reverse the Commission’s admonishment and dismissed the Commission’s complaint against the judge. View "In Re District Court Judge" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, Charles Faber and Karen Faber, filed suit against insurance agencies and related individuals, claiming insurance malpractice. Defendants moved for summary judgment on the basis that Plaintiffs’ claims were barred by the statute of limitations. Plaintiffs responded that the limitation period was tolled because Charles could not reasonably have discovered the alleged insurance malpractice until a date within the limitations period because a reasonable person does not read his or her insurance policies. Summary judgment was entered for Defendants on grounds that Plaintiffs’ claims were time-barred under the three-year limitation period for insurance malpractice claims. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiffs’ claims against Defendants were untimely. View "Faber v. McVay" on Justia Law

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Icke, a chiropractor, was convicted of sexual penetration by fraudulent misrepresentation of professional purpose. (Pen. Code 289(d)(4)). The jury found that Icke digitally penetrated a client for a sexual purpose during a chiropractic massage. The court of appeals affirmed, rejecting Icke’s argument that the trial court erred in rejecting a proposed jury instruction that would have stated he was not guilty of violating section 289(d)(4) if he penetrated the client against her will. The court found the argument foreclosed by the California Supreme Court’s 2016 decision, People v. Robinson, which held the “unconsciousness” requirement of fraudulent misrepresentation of professional purpose crimes is the equivalent of a lack of consent. Icke also argued his conviction was not supported by sufficient evidence because the victim protested and did not actually believe he was acting for professional purposes at the time of the act. The court held that a victim’s misgivings do not exonerate a defendant under section 289(d)(4) if the evidence establishes that the victim allowed a sexual touching to occur because of a representation of professional purpose. View "People v. Icke" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against defendants after he was suspended from his position as a physician at Cedars-Sinai. The suspension stemmed from plaintiff's operation on a young patient, which resulted in complications requiring corrective surgery. The trial court granted the hospital's anti-SLAPP, Code of Civil Procedure 425.16, motion based on its contention that plaintiff's claim arose out of a protected activity—the medical staff's peer review process—and that plaintiff could not show a probability of success on the merits. The court concluded that defendants' acts relating to plaintiff's suspension and peer review process constituted protected activity for purposes of the anti-SLAPP statute and plaintiff's claims arose from that protected activity. Because plaintiffs' claims arose from defendants' protected activity, the burden shifted to plaintiff to submit admissible evidence supporting a prima facie case in his favor. In this case, the court concluded that plaintiff failed to establish a probability of success on the merits of his claims under the Health and Safety Code and he failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Melamed v. Cedars-Sinai Medical Center" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellee J.B. was injured when certified registered nurse anesthetist (“CRNA”) Paul Serdula sexually assaulted her in a surgical suite in the dental practice of defendant-appellant Goldstein, Garber and Salama, LLC (GGS). Serdula was hired by GGS as an independent contractor through anesthesia staffing agency Certified Anesthesia Providers; in accordance with its standard practice, that agency conducted an independent credentialing process on Serdula prior to placing him in any medical or dental facilities. The Georgia Supreme Court granted certiorari to the Court of Appeals to determine whether the Court of Appeals erred in concluding that a reasonable jury could find that a third party’s sexual molestation of J.B. was an act foreseeable by GGS, whether the appellate court erred in affirming the trial court’s denial of GGS’s motion for a directed verdict on the issue of negligence per se, and whether GGS waived any objection to the jury verdict’s apportionment of fault. Finding that appellate court misinterpreted OCGA 43-11-21.1, GGS’s motion for a directed verdict should have been granted. View "Goldstein, Garber & Salama, LLC v. J.B." on Justia Law

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Landowner hired Architects to design a commercial retail project and oversee construction. Landowner subsequently sued, alleging breach of contract and negligence in the project’s design and negligence. With its original petition, Landowner filed a third-party licensed architect’s affidavit stating his professional opinion about Architects’ work. Architects filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the affidavit did not meet the requirements for a certificate of merit under Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code 150.002(a)-(b). The trial court denied the motion to dismiss. The court of appeals affirmed the order denying dismissal of the negligence claim but reversed the order as to the contract claim, concluding that the affidavit at issue was deficient as to that claim. Architects appealed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that neither the affidavit nor the record confirmed that the affiant possessed the requisite knowledge to issue the certificate of merit, and therefore, the certificate was not sufficient for Landowner’s negligence claim to proceed. View "Levinson Alcoser Associates, L.P. v. El Pistolon II, Ltd." on Justia Law

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In 2008, Kimberly Bond sued her former attorney, James McLaughlin, alleging legal malpractice. The trial court entered a summary judgment in favor of McLaughlin. In February 2006, Bond hired McLaughlin to provide legal services involving the estate of her husband, Kenneth Pylant II, who was killed in a motorcycle accident in 2005. McLaughlin allegedly failed to properly contest a copy of Pylant's will that was admitted to probate on November 29, 2005, and, as a proximate result of McLaughlin's breach of duty, Bond was injured and suffered damage. The Supreme Court found that Bond did not contest the will before probate, and, because of McLaughlin's negligence, she did not properly contest the will within six months after probate by filing a complaint with the circuit court. The Supreme Court determined that Bond presented evidence sufficient to overcome summary judgment, and accordingly reversed the circuit court’s order. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Bond v. McLaughlin" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit after StanCERA implemented several changes to the actuarial calculations used to determine how to amortize unfunded liabilities within the retirement system and chose to utilize so-called non-valuation funds, money not used to ensure the overall system was actuarially sound, to reduce or replace required employer contributions. Plaintiffs argued that these actions constituted a breach of the constitutional fiduciary duties placed on the board of a county retirement system. On appeal, plaintiffs challenged the trial court's grant of summary judgment to defendants. The court concluded that the trial court correctly determined that plaintiffs were not entitled to summary judgment, but the trial court erred in determining that no material issues of fact remained. The court explained that there remain material issues of fact regarding whether the resulting conduct violated the constitutionally mandated fiduciary duty of loyalty the board owed to StanCERA's members. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "O'Neal v. Stanislaus County Employees' Retirement Association" on Justia Law

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Defendant Glenn Ciripompa was a tenured high school math teacher in the Bound Brook School District. Defendant's behavior came under the scrutiny of the Bound Brook Board of Education (Board) after the Board received copies of student Twitter posts alleging "Mr. C" was electronically transmitting nude photographs. An investigation uncovered defendant's pervasive misuse of his District-issued laptop and iPad, as well as evidence of inappropriate behavior toward female colleagues, often in the presence of students. The results of the investigation spurred the Board to seek defendant's termination from his tenured position and served as the substantive allegations of the two-count tenure complaint against defendant. In this appeal, the issue presented for the Supreme Court's review centered on whether an arbitrator exceeded his authority by applying the standard for proving a hostile-work-environment, sexual-harassment claim in a law against discrimination (LAD) case to a claim of unbecoming conduct in the teacher disciplinary hearing. After review, the Supreme Court found that the arbitrator impermissibly converted the second charge of unbecoming conduct into one of sexual harassment. The arbitrator's review was not consonant with the matter submitted; rather, he imperfectly executed his powers as well as exceeded his authority by failing to decide whether Count II stated a successful claim of unbecoming conduct in support of termination. The arbitrator's award was therefore ruled invalid. View "Bound Brook Bd. of Edu. v. Ciripompa" on Justia Law