Justia Professional Malpractice & Ethics Opinion Summaries
Uriegas v. Kenmar Residential HCS Services, Inc.
The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the trial court that two expert reports provided to support Plaintiff's claims for negligence provided the information required by the Texas Medical Liability Act, Tex. Civ. Proc. & Rem. Code 74.351(a), (l), (r)(6), holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Defendant's motion to dismiss.Plaintiff, the guardian of a care facility resident, sued Defendant, the facility, alleging negligence. The trial court concluded that the two expert reports provided by Plaintiff to support the claims provided a fair summary of the experts' opinion regarding the standard of care, breach, and the cause of injury, as required by the Act. The court of appeals reversed on the ground that the reports lacked sufficient detail regarding the appropriate standard of care and breach. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the proffered reports provided a fair summary of the experts' opinions as to the appropriate standard of care and breach of that standard. View "Uriegas v. Kenmar Residential HCS Services, Inc." on Justia Law
Trumbull County v. Purdue Pharma, L.P.
In the multidistrict National Prescription Opiate Litigation, municipalities from across the nation, Indian Tribes, and other entities allege that opioid manufacturers, distributors, pharmacies, and retailers acted in concert to mislead medical professionals into prescribing, and millions of Americans into taking and often becoming addicted to, opiates. Two northeast Ohio counties, Trumbull and Lake, alleged that national pharmaceutical chains “created, perpetuated, and maintained” the opioid epidemic by filling prescriptions for opioids without controls in place to stop the distribution of those that were illicitly prescribed and that conduct caused an absolute public nuisance remediable by abatement under Ohio common law.The district court ordered a bellwether trial, after which a jury concluded that the “oversupply of legal prescription opioids, and diversion of those opioids into the illicit market” was a public nuisance in those counties and that defendants “engaged in intentional and/or illegal conduct which was a substantial factor in producing" that nuisance. The district court entered a $650 million abatement order and an injunction requiring defendants to “ensure they are complying fully with the Controlled Substances Act and avoiding further improper dispensing conduct.” On appeal, the Sixth Circuit certified a question of law to the Ohio Supreme Court: Whether the Ohio Product Liability Act, Ohio Revised Code 2307.71, abrogates a common law claim of absolute public nuisance resulting from the sale of a product in commerce in which the plaintiffs seek equitable abatement, including both monetary and injunctive remedies? View "Trumbull County v. Purdue Pharma, L.P." on Justia Law
Rich v. Hepworth Holzer
Holly Rich brought a legal malpractice action against her attorneys, Hepworth Holzer, LLP, and E. Craig Daue and Daue Buxbaum, PLLC (“Daue Buxbaum”) (collectively, “Respondents”), regarding their legal representation of Rich in an underlying medical malpractice action against Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center (“EIRMC”), Dr. John Lassetter (a cardiologist), and Dr. Charles Phillips (an intensivist) (collectively, “EIRMC providers”). In that action, Rich's claims against the EIRMC providers failed because they were filed after the statute of limitations expired. Rich alleged in this action that those claims were not filed on time because of Respondents’ legal malpractice. Both sides filed substantive motions for summary judgment and the district court found that Rich could not prevail because she had “not disclosed any expert [medical] testimony which complies with the requirements of Idaho law for admissibility.” The district court concluded that, lacking evidence to “set out a prima facie case of medical malpractice,” in the underlying case, Rich’s claim against Respondents for legal malpractice failed. Rich appealed. The Idaho Supreme Court found no reversible error and affirmed. View "Rich v. Hepworth Holzer" on Justia Law
Katz, Abosch, Windesheim, Gersham & Freedman, P.A. v. Parkway Neuroscience & Spine Institute, LLC
In this professional malpractice action, the Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the appellate court reversing the summary judgment of the trial court in favor of Defendant because Plaintiff could not prove damages and remanded this case to the circuit court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion, holding that remand was required.Plaintiff, a medical and surgical practice, retained Defendant, an accounting firm, in 2013 and terminated Defendant's services in 2015. In 2018, Plaintiff sued Defendant to recover damages for lost profits. Plaintiff designated a certificated public accountant (CPA) as an expert witness, who used the "before-and-after" method to calculate Plaintiff's lost profits. In 2021, the CPA issued updated calculations reflecting "normalizing adjustments" that she had made. The trial court excluded the CPA's expert testimony based on its application of the Daubert-Rochkind factors. The appellate court reversed the trial court's exclusion of the CPA's testimony and remanded the case for further proceedings. The Supreme Court remanded the cause, holding that the trial court erred in its consideration of the normalizing adjustments as reflecting on the reliability of the CPA's methodology, as opposed to the credibility of the CPA herself. View "Katz, Abosch, Windesheim, Gersham & Freedman, P.A. v. Parkway Neuroscience & Spine Institute, LLC" on Justia Law
In re: Larisa Ivanovna Markus
Appellant, an attorney, represented debtor in proceedings before the United States Bankruptcy Court. After Appellant failed to comply with a series of discovery orders, the bankruptcy court imposed sanctions of $55,000 for 55 days of non-compliance and $36,600 in attorneys' fees. The orders were affirmed by the district court. Appellant appealed, arguing that, first, the bankruptcy court lacked inherent authority to issue civil contempt sanctions, and second, as a matter of due process, he was not provided with sufficient notice of the basis for the sanctions imposed against him. The Second Circuit affirmed. The court concluded that the civil contempt sanctions imposed against Appellant were within the scope of the bankruptcy court's discretion and that he had ample notice of the basis and reasons for the imposition of sanctions. The court explained that it appears that Appellant could not have been sanctioned under any express authority; the bankruptcy court was right to consider its inherent contempt authority. Nor was the bankruptcy court's exercise of its inherent contempt authority contrary to any provision of the Bankruptcy Code, including Section 105(a). Further, the court reasoned that the bankruptcy court found all the necessary elements -- that is, a finding of bad faith and satisfaction of the King factors -- to order contempt sanctions in the circumstances here, where Appellant was acting as an advocate. View "In re: Larisa Ivanovna Markus" on Justia Law
United States v. Avenatti
Defendant, a California licensed attorney, challenged (1) the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his conviction for transmitting extortionate communications in interstate commerce to sportswear leader Nike, attempted Hobbs Act extortion of Nike, and honest-services wire fraud of the client whom Defendant was purportedly representing in negotiations with Nike. Defendant further challenged the trial court’s jury instruction as to honest-services fraud and the legality of a $259,800.50 restitution award to Nike. The Second Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the trial evidence was sufficient to support Defendant’s conviction for the two charged extortion counts because a reasonable jury could find that Defendant’s threat to injure Nike’s reputation and financial position was wrongful in that the multi-million-dollar demand supported by the threat bore no nexus to any claim of right. Further, the court held that the trial evidence was sufficient to support Defendant’s conviction for honest-services fraud because a reasonable jury could find that Defendant solicited a bribe from Nike in the form of a quid pro quo whereby Nike would pay Defendant many millions of dollars in return for which Defendant would violate his fiduciary duty as an attorney. The court further explained that the district court did not exceed its authority under the MVRA by awarding restitution more than 90 days after initial sentencing, and Defendant has shown no prejudice from the delayed award. Finally, the court wrote that the MVRA applies in this case where Nike sustained a pecuniary loss directly attributable to those crimes as a result of incurring fees for its attorneys to attend the meeting demanded by Defendant at which he first communicated his extortionate threat. View "United States v. Avenatti" on Justia Law
Rossbach et al. v. Montefiore Medical Center et al.
Plaintiff sued her employer, Defendant Montefiore Medical Center, and two of its employees, asserting claims of sexual harassment during and retaliatory discharge from her employment. Following the district court’s grant of partial summary judgment in their favor, Defendants moved to dismiss Plaintiff’s remaining claims and sought sanctions against Plaintiff and her counsel, Appellant Daniel Altaras and his firm, Appellant Derek Smith Law Group, PLLC (“DSLG”), contending that Plaintiff’s text message evidence was a forgery. The district court found by clear and convincing evidence that Plaintiff had fabricated the text messages, falsely testified about their production, and spoliated evidence in an attempt to conceal her wrongdoing. The district court also found that Altaras had facilitated Plaintiff’s misconduct. The district court dismissed Plaintiff’s remaining claims with prejudice and imposed a monetary sanction of attorneys’ fees, costs, and expenses incurred by Defendants. On appeal, Appellants challenged various aspects of the district court’s conduct. The court vacated the portion of the district court’s judgment imposing a sanction on Altaras and DSLG and remanded for further proceedings consistent. The court affirmed the judgment of the district court in all other respects. The court held that the district court erred by failing to expressly make the finding of bad faith required to support the sanction it imposed against Altaras and DSLG. The court directed that on remand, the district court may assess in its discretion whether Altaras’s misconduct—including his insistence on defending a complaint founded on obviously fabricated evidence or other actions—amounted to bad faith. View "Rossbach et al. v. Montefiore Medical Center et al." on Justia Law
Matthew Kezhaya v. City of Belle Plaine
Appellant Attorney Kezhaya represented The Satanic Temple, Inc., in its lawsuits against the City of Belle Plaine, Minnesota. The Temple sued the City, claiming that the City opened a limited public forum for a Christian monument, but closed the forum to exclude a Satanic monument. The City sought $33,886.80 in attorney’s fees incurred by responding to the complaint in the second lawsuit and preparing the motion for sanctions. The court determined that the rates charged by the City’s counsel were reasonable but observed that a portion of the work was duplicative of the first lawsuit and that the issues unique to the second lawsuit were not complex, novel, or difficult. The court thus reduced the requested amount by fifty percent and ordered the Temple’s counsel to pay the City $16,943.40 under Rule 11(c). Kezhaya appealed the sanctions order. He argues that the district court abused its discretion by (i) imposing sanctions, (ii) failing to consider non-monetary sanctions, and (iii) granting an arbitrary amount of sanctions. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that under the circumstances, it disagreed with Kezhaya’s contention about the righteousness of a second lawsuit. For the claims dismissed “without prejudice” in the first lawsuit, Kezhaya and the Temple made a strategic choice to seek leave to amend the complaint to correct the deficiencies identified in the dismissal order. Further, the court found that even if the City’s insurance carrier ultimately paid the fees, the fees were “incurred” for the motion and could be awarded under Rule 11(c)(2). View "Matthew Kezhaya v. City of Belle Plaine" on Justia Law
Iloh v. Regents of the University of California
The Center for Scientific Integrity (CSI) was an organization that reported on academic retractions and accountability. CSI wrote an article about plaintiff-respondent Constance Iloh, a professor at the University of California, Irvine (UCI), after several academic journals retracted articles Iloh had written due to concerns about possible plagiarism or inaccurate citation references. In a follow-up to that article, CSI sent UCI a records request under the California Public Records Act (CPRA) requesting Iloh’s postpublication communications with the journals and UCI. Iloh petitioned for a writ of mandate, declaratory relief, and injunctive relief against UCI to prevent disclosure of her communications, and later added CSI as a real party in interest. She then filed a motion for preliminary injunction to prevent disclosure. Meanwhile, CSI filed a motion to strike Iloh’s petition under the anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) statute. The Court of Appeal’s first opinion in this case concerned Iloh’s motion for preliminary injunction. The trial court denied that motion on the grounds that Iloh had not established a likelihood of prevailing on the merits, and the Court affirmed that order. In this case, the Court considered CSI’s anti-SLAPP motion. The trial court denied the motion, finding that although protected activity may have led to the petition, it was not the “basis” for the petition. To this, the Court disagreed: in issuing the CPRA request, CSI was engaging in newsgathering so it could report on matters of public interest, such as how a public university funded largely by taxpayer dollars resolved quality or integrity problems in its professors’ publications. CSI was therefore engaged in protected activity when it issued the CPRA request. Iloh filed her petition for mandamus relief to prevent UCI from complying with the CPRA request. “This is the type of lawsuit the anti-SLAPP statute is designed to address, and it should be stricken if Iloh cannot demonstrate a probability of prevailing on her petition.” The Court of Appeal found the trial court had not performed the second prong of the anti-SLAPP analysis. Therefore, the Court reversed the order denying CSI’s anti-SLAPP motion and remanded this case with directions that the trial court consider prong two of the anti-SLAPP statute. View "Iloh v. Regents of the University of California" on Justia Law
New Albany Main Street Properties, LLC v. R. Wayne Stratton, CPA
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court granting Defendant's motion to dismiss the underlying complaint filed by Port of Louisville for defamation and professional malfeasance, holding that Port of Louisville had no legally recognized relationship with R. Wayne Stratton, CPA and Jones, Nale & Mattingly PLC (collectively, Stratton), and therefore, Stratton did not owe the Port of Louisville any duty.Louisville and Jefferson County Riverport Authority filed a lawsuit seeking to terminate Port of Louisville's lease based on allegations that Port of Louisville breached the parties' lease The action was stayed while the claims were referred to an arbitrator, who found that Port of Louisville had not breached the lease. Based on what occurred during the arbitration the Port of Louisville brought a complaint against Stratton for defamation and professional malfeasance. The trial court granted Stratton's motion to dismiss, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Port of Louisville had no legally recognized relationship with Stratton that would cause Stratton to owe it a duty. View "New Albany Main Street Properties, LLC v. R. Wayne Stratton, CPA" on Justia Law