Justia Professional Malpractice & Ethics Opinion Summaries

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In July 2013, the California State Board of Pharmacy (the Board) filed an accusation against pharmacist Solomon Oduyale, citing 20 charges for discipline and seeking revocation of his pharmacist license. By August 2016, Oduyale had successfully challenged all but nine of the charges for discipline against him. The Board then ordered Oduyale's pharmacist license revoked. Oduyale challenged the Board's decision in court by filing a petition for writ of mandate. In his petition, Oduyale argued the Board lacked justification for revoking his license, and suggested it could have imposed stringent conditions on probation instead. The superior court did not comment on the propriety of the revocation decision, but concluded that because the Board's decision did not include an explicit discussion of each possible level of discipline with an explanation for why each would have been inappropriate in Oduyale's case, the Board abused its discretion. The Board appealed to the Court of Appeal, challenging the trial court's requirement that it discuss every possible form of discipline short of revocation in its written decision, and also asked for consideration of whether it acted within its discretion to revoke Oduyale's pharmacist license based on the nine causes for discipline. Oduyale cross-appealed, contending the trial court erred by remanding the matter for further consideration by the Board and arguing the court should have directed the Board to impose a penalty short of revocation. The Court of Appeal agreed with the Board: the trial court erred by directing it to provide in writing its reasoning for not imposing each penalty short of revocation. Furthermore, the Court concluded the Board acted within its discretion to revoke Oduyale's pharmacist license. Accordingly, the trial court's judgment was reversed. View "Oduyale v. California State Board of Pharmacy" on Justia Law

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Attorney-defendant Peter Porter represented plaintiff Elise Sharon in a lawsuit resulting in a 2008 default judgment entered in favor of Sharon. In October 2015, a judgment debtor wrote to Sharon, claiming the judgment was void. In November 2015, Sharon’s new attorney correctly opined that the judgment was indeed void. In September 2016, the debtor filed a motion to vacate the judgment, which was granted the following month. In May 2017, Sharon filed a legal malpractice lawsuit against Porter. During a court trial on stipulated facts, the trial court found the judgment had been valid until it was vacated. The court also found the statute of limitations applicable to Sharon’s lawsuit had been tolled until “actual injury” first occurred in September 2016, when Sharon began incurring hourly attorney fees to oppose the judgment debtor’s motion to vacate the judgment. After review, the Court of Appeal reversed, finding the default judgment was void independent of it being vacated. "Discovery of the void judgment and whatever injury resulted therefrom occurred at least by November 2015 when the judgment debtor wrote to Sharon and her new attorney claiming the judgment was void. The statute ran one year from that date. Sharon’s 2017 lawsuit was time-barred." View "Sharon v. Porter" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court dismissing Appellant's complaint because he filed it, though he did not serve it, without an affidavit and expert report, holding that an initial pleading filed under Nev. Rev. Stat. 11.258(1) is void ab initio only when it is served without a concurrent filing of the required attorney affidavit and expert report. In dismissing Appellant's complaint the district court relief on a statement in Otak Nevada, LLC v. Eighth Judicial District Court, 260 P.3d 408 (2011), that "a pleading filed under [section] 11.258 without the required affidavit and expert report is void ab initio." The Supreme Court reversed the district court's order granting the motion to dismiss and remanded the matter to the district court for further consideration, holding that a pleading is void ab initio under section 11.258(1) only where the pleading is served without a concurrent filing of the required attorney affidavit and expert report, not where the pleading is merely filed. View "Reif v. Aries Consultants, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a malpractice action against Zbylut, Cox and LPS alleging they had violated their professional duties by undertaking representation of Purposeful Press without her consent, and rendering legal advice in the underlying lawsuits that was adverse to her interests. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of defendants' motions for summary judgment, holding that plaintiff did not dispute that she lacked standing to seek reimbursement of Purposeful Press's funds, and plaintiff failed to present any evidence that would support a finding of an implied attorney-client relationship with the firm. In this case, plaintiff has not identified any harm that defendants' representation of Purposeful Press was alleged to have caused her in her representative capacity as a shareholder. Furthermore, even if there were circumstances under which a corporate attorney might owe such a duty to individual shareholders, no such circumstances were present here. View "Sprengel v. Zbylut" on Justia Law

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The Idaho Board of Licensure of Professional Engineers and Professional Land Surveyors (the Board), through its executive director, Keith Simila, brought disciplinary proceedings against Chad Erickson for allegedly violating certain statutes and rules governing the surveying profession. Following an administrative hearing, the Board found that Erickson violated a number of the statutes and rules alleged and revoked his license as a professional land surveyor. Erickson sought judicial review by the district court. On review, the district court upheld the Board’s finding that Erickson had committed certain violations; however, the district court reversed the portion of the Board’s Order revoking Erickson’s license and remanded the matter for further consideration of the appropriate sanction. Erickson appeals from the district court’s decision, arguing that the evidence does not support the Board’s finding of any violations. In addition, Erickson asserts that numerous procedural errors made by the Board necessitate reversal. After its review, the Idaho Supreme Court reversed the district court's order, finding the Board's order against Erickson was time-barred. View "Erickson v. Idaho Board of Licensure of Professional Engineers & Professional Land Surveyors" on Justia Law

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After the county petitioned the superior court for a writ vacating the Commission's decision and upholding LA County Sheriff's Deputy Mark Montez's discharge, the trial court found that the Commission's decision was unsupported by its own findings and issued a writ ordering the Commission to set aside its decision and reconsider the matters. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's order and held that Montez's misconduct was an inexcusable neglect of duty that harmed the Sheriff's Department by compromising the public's ability to trust it, and the Commission abused its discretion by reducing Montez's punishment. The court held that reasonable minds could not differ with regard to the appropriate disciplinary action in Montez's case, and the Commission's conclusion that the misconduct was unlikely to recur was unwarranted. View "County of Los Angeles v. Civil Service Commission of the County of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendant, who represented Plaintiff in her divorce, and dismissing Plaintiff's legal malpractice action, holding that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment on the basis of judicial estoppel. Plaintiff asserted in her complaint that the attorney's actions during the divorce proceedings so compromised her position that she was forced to settle on unfavorable terms. Citing Plaintiff's sworn acknowledgment in her marital dissolution agreement that the divorce settlement was fair and equitable, the trial court concluded that Plaintiff was estopped from asserting that the divorce settlement terms were unfavorable. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the statements by Plaintiff were not the type of sworn statements that are proscribed under the doctrine of judicial estoppel; and (2) therefore, the trial court erred in holding that judicial estoppel precluded Plaintiff's legal malpractice claim against Defendant. View "Kershaw v. Levy" on Justia Law

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After the hospital terminated plaintiff's privileges and staff membership without giving him a hearing, he filed a complaint that included causes of action seeking a writ of administrative mandate, alleging, among other things, the hospital denied him the right to a hearing before terminating his privileges. After determining that the trial court's order denying the petition for writ of administrative mandate was appealable, the Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's denial of the petition. The court held that the hospital failed to give plaintiff a hearing as required by Business and Professions Code section 809.1 when it terminated his privileges and membership for a medical disciplinary cause or reason. Accordingly, the trial court is directed to enter a new order granting plaintiff's petition for mandate requesting a hearing. View "Alaama v. Presbyterian Intercommunity Hospital, Inc." on Justia Law

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Antoinette Belle, as personal representative of the estate of Edith Mitchell, deceased, sued various health-care providers that treated Mitchell while she was hospitalized in April 2009. Belle eventually reached settlements with all of those health-care providers except two physicians. The trial court entered a summary judgment against Belle and in favor of the two physicians, bringing the medical-malpractice action to a close. Belle then filed a legal-malpractice case against four attorneys and three law firms that had represented her at varying times in the medical-malpractice action, alleging they had been negligent in representing her. Belle later brought an additional claim of fraudulent concealment. The attorneys and law firms denied the allegations against them, arguing that Belle's claims were untimely and that they had no factual or legal basis. The trial court agreed and entered judgments in favor of the attorneys and law firms. Belle appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed judgment in the attorneys and law firms. View "Belle v. Goldasich, Jr., et al." on Justia Law

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Rebecca Parkinson appealed a district court’s dismissal of her claim for breach of fiduciary duty against her attorney, James Bevis. Parkinson filed a complaint alleging Bevis breached his fiduciary duty when he disclosed a confidential email to the opposing attorney after reaching a settlement in Parkinson’s divorce action. Bevis moved to dismiss under Idaho Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), arguing that Parkinson’s complaint failed to state a claim for relief. The district court agreed and dismissed Parkinson’s claim after determining that it was, in essence, a legal malpractice claim, on which Parkinson could not prevail because she admitted that she suffered no damages from Bevis’ disclosure. The Idaho Supreme Court determined the district court erred in dismissing Parkinson's complaint: whether an attorney must forfeit any or all fees for a breach of fiduciary duty to a client must be determined by applying the rule as stated in section 37 of the Restatement (Third) of the Law Governing Lawyers and the factors the Supreme Court identified to the individual circumstances of each case. In light of this conclusion, the district court’s determination that Parkinson could not pursue her claim on an equitable basis as a matter of law was incorrect. The matter was remanded for further proceedings. View "Parkinson v. Bevis" on Justia Law