Justia Professional Malpractice & Ethics Opinion Summaries

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Crane filed a complaint for retaliatory discharge, alleging that his employment with Midwest was terminated after he reported numerous health and safety violations to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. Crane was awarded $160,000 in compensatory damages and $625,000 in punitive damages. The appellate court affirmed. After losing the underlying action and paying damages to its former employee, Midwest filed a legal malpractice complaint against its attorneys and the Sandberg law firm, alleging that the attorneys failed to list all witnesses intended to be called at trial in compliance with Illinois Supreme Court Rule 213(f), resulting in six defense witnesses being barred from testifying, and several other errors.The circuit court denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss but certified a question for immediate appeal: Does Illinois’ public policy on punitive damages and/or the statutory prohibition on punitive damages [in legal malpractice actions, 735 ILCS 5/2-1115] bar recovery of incurred punitive damages in a legal malpractice case where the client alleges that, but for the attorney's negligence in the underlying case, the jury in the underlying case would have returned a verdict awarding either no punitive damages or punitive damages in a lesser sum?” The appellate court and Illinois Supreme Court answered the question in the negative and affirmed the judgment. View "Midwest Sanitary Service, Inc. v. Sandberg, Phoenix & Von Gontard, P.C." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the court of appeals denying a motion for writs of prohibition and mandamus, holding that there was no error.In the underlying medical negligence action, Petitioners filed a petition seeking a writ of prohibition in the court of appeals to prohibit the enforcement of a circuit court order directing them to provide Norton Healthcare with nine years of Facebook data. Alternatively, Petitioners sought a writ of mandamus directing the circuit court to enter a more constrained discovery order. The court of appeals denied the motion for writs of prohibition and mandamus. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Petitioners' series of general objections were without merit, and therefore, the court of appeals did not err in denying the writ. View "Leslie-Johnson v. Hon. Audra Eckerle" on Justia Law

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On November 4, 2016, Kernan had an External Cephalic Version (ECV) procedure to rotate her healthy 39-week fetus from a breech position. The hospital recorded the ECV as successful. Post-procedure fetal monitoring was “reassuring.” The next day, Kernan could not detect fetal movement and returned to the hospital. After an ultrasound, doctors informed Kernan that she had suffered an intrauterine fetal demise and that they could not determine the cause of death. They noted that nothing in the literature linked ECV with fetal demise. Kernan delivered a stillborn baby on November 7. The delivery doctor, Vargas, told Kernan that he could not see any indicators as to why Kernan’s baby died. Kernan eventually ordered an autopsy. After months of delay due to Dr. Vargas not responding to Kernan’s requests to review the autopsy report with her, Kernan met with Dr. Kerns on July 10, 2017, and learned that doctors had discussed her case during a morbidity and mortality conference. Kernan claims she first became subjectively suspicious of medical negligence during that meeting. On November 6, 2017, Kernan served notice of her intention to file suit. Within 90 days, she filed her negligence complaint.The court rejected the suit as time-barred under Code of Civil Procedure 340.5’s one-year limitations period. The court of appeal reversed. The hospital’s records demonstrate that reasonable minds could differ as to whether Kernan should have suspected negligent performance of the ECV on November 5, 2016. View "Kernan v. Regents of the University of California" on Justia Law

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In 2002, Douglas Coe, Jacqueline Coe, and GFLIRB, LLC (collectively the “Coes”) were involved in the sale of a company in which they held a substantial interest. Their accountants, BDO Seidman, LLP (“BDO”), advised them of a proposed tax strategy in which the Coes could invest in distressed debt from a foreign company in order to offset their tax obligations. In connection with the proposed tax strategy, BDO advised the Coes to obtain a legal opinion from an independent law firm, Proskauer Rose LLP (“Proskauer”). The Coes followed BDO’s advice, obtained a legal opinion from Proskauer, and claimed losses on their tax returns as a result. But in 2005, the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) initiated an audit, which ultimately led to a settlement in 2012. After settling with the IRS, the Coes filed suit against Proskauer in December 2015, asserting legal malpractice, breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, negligent misrepresentation, and other claims. After limited discovery on whether the statute of limitation barred the Coes’ claims, the trial court concluded that it did and granted summary judgment in favor of Proskauer, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. The Georgia Supreme Court concluded the Court of Appeals erred in determining that the Coes failed, as a matter of law, to exercise reasonable diligence to discover Proskauer’s allegedly fraudulent acts. Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Coe, et al. v. Proskauer Rose, LLP" on Justia Law

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Respondent, magistrate judge of Greenwood County Walter Martin, and the South Carolina Office of Disciplinary Counsel (ODC) entered into an Agreement for Discipline by Consent (Agreement) pursuant to Rule 21 of the Rules for Judicial Disciplinary Enforcement (RJDE) contained in Rule 502 of the South Carolina Appellate Court Rules (SCACR). In the Agreement, Respondent admitted misconduct, consented to any sanction ranging from a confidential admonition up to a six-month definite suspension, and agreed to attend anger management counseling and pay costs. This discipline stemmed from two incidents in 2021 in which Respondent used profanity toward plaintiff's counsel at a jury trial, and for complaining "in a loud and agitated manner" toward a scheduling clerk for failing to provide him timely notice of a jury trial. The South Carolina Supreme Court accepted the Agreement and issued a public reprimand. View "In the Matter of Walter Rutledge Martin of the Greenwood County Magistrate's Court" on Justia Law

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On July 25, 2021, Mark Thompson, Judge for the 5th Colorado Judicial District, got into a heated verbal confrontation with his 22-year-old adult stepson. The confrontation began in the street in front of Judge Thompson’s home and continued inside the home. After the confrontation moved inside the home, Judge Thompson was alleged to have pointed an AR-15 style rifle at his stepson’s chest. Judge Thompson retrieved the rifle from a gun safe in the home before allegedly pointing it at his stepson. The stepson left the house and called 911. The Sherriff’s Department began an investigation. Once the Summit County Sheriff’s Department recognized that Judge Thompson was the Chief Judge for their judicial district, it recused itself and transferred the case to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. In early January 2022, Judge Thompson pled guilty to a class 2 misdemeanor for disorderly conduct, for which he was sentenced to one year of unsupervised probation with a requirement of continued anger management. The Colorado Commission on Judicial Discipline (“the Commission”) recommended that the Colorado Supreme Court approve a Stipulation for Public Censure and Suspension, which was executed between Judge Thompson and the Commission pursuant to Rules 36(c), 36(e), and 37(e) of the Colorado Rules of Judicial Discipline (“RJD”). Consistent with the Stipulation, the Commission recommended that the Supreme Court issue a public censure and a thirty-day suspension of Judge Thompson's judicial duties without pay. The Supreme Court adopted the Commission’s recommendation. View "Matter of: Judge Mark D. Thompson" on Justia Law

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In this medical malpractice action, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of defendant-doctors after granting a motion to strike Plaintiff's expert witness, holding that there was no error.Plaintiff brought this action individually and on behalf of her minor daughter alleging negligence during the child's birth. After dismissing one defendant by operation of law and entering an order striking Plaintiff's expert witness the district court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court's decision to strike the expert witness was not an abuse of discretion; and (2) the district court did not err in granting summary judgment to Defendants. View "Carrizales v. Creighton St. Joseph" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the decisions of the district court granting partial summary judgment to defendant-physicians and denying Plaintiffs' motion for reconsideration in light of the decision in Oquendo-Lorenzo v. Hospital San Antonio, Inc., 256 F. Supp. 3d 103 (D.P.R. 2017), holding that the district court did not err or abuse its discretion.Plaintiffs filed this suit on behalf of themselves, their conjugal partnership, and their minor daughter, C.A.K., alleging that Defendants breached their duty of care and departed from medical standards when treating C.A.K. in the emergency room of San Antonio Hospital. The district court granted partial summary judgment for Defendants, concluding that they were absolutely immune from liability for negligence under recent amendments to Article 41.050 of the Puerto Rico Insurance Code. After Oquendo-Lorenzo was subsequently decided, Plaintiffs moved for reconsideration. The district court denied the motion. The First Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment and order denying the motion to reconsider, holding that there was no error or abuse of discretion. View "Kenyon v. Gonzalez-Del Rio" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals vacated the judgment of the court of special appeals reversing the decision of the trial court granting summary judgment to Defendants in this professional malpractice action, holding that the circuit court mistakenly applied Meda v. Brown, 318 Md. 418 (1990), in excluding Plaintiff's experts.In their motion for summary judgment, Defendants argued that there was no evidence or medical circumstances sufficient to allow an expert opinion "inference" that surgical negligence occurred in the underlying matter. After finding that the testimonies of Plaintiffs' expert witnesses were not admissible the Supreme Court granted summary judgment for Defendants. The court of special appeals reversed, finding that the trial court erred as a matter of law in excluding Plaintiff's expert witnesses. The Court of Appeals remanded the case with instructions to reverse the circuit court's judgment, holding that the circuit court erred in excluding the testimony of Plaintiff's expert witnesses. View "Frankel v. Deane" on Justia Law

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The Idaho Board of Pharmacy (“Board”) filed an administrative complaint against pharmacist Cindy Chambers, alleging that she dispensed a controlled substance without a valid prescription. Chambers prevailed before the Board and it determined that she was entitled to recover her reasonable attorney fees and costs; however, she failed to comply with the 14-day deadline for requesting her award. When she filed a request almost seven months after the deadline had passed, the Board denied her request upon finding that she failed to show good cause for the late filing. Chambers then sought judicial review from the district court, which dismissed her petition. Chambers then appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court, maintaining that both the Board and the district court erred by applying the wrong legal standard. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. View "Chambers v. Idaho Board of Pharmacy" on Justia Law