Justia Professional Malpractice & Ethics Opinion Summaries

by
Plaintiff Michael O’Shea hired attorney Susan Lindenberg to represent him in a child support action. After O’Shea’s ex-wife was awarded what he believed to be an excessive amount of child support, he filed this action, alleging Lindenberg should have retained a forensic accountant. The case went to trial and the jury concluded, in a special verdict, that Lindenberg owed a professional duty of care that she breached. The jury was unable to agree, however, on whether the breach of duty caused him damage, and the judge declared a mistrial. Lindenberg moved for a directed verdict on the grounds that the evidence presented at trial did not support a finding of causation, specifically, that without the alleged malpractice, O’Shea would have received a better result. The trial court agreed and directed a verdict in Lindenberg’s favor. After review, the Court of Appeal found O’Shea failed to present sufficient testimony on the issue of causation, and therefore affirmed the directed verdict. View "O'Shea v. Lindenberg" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court affirming a decision by the Department of Health and Human Services excluding Stephen Doane, MD from participation in and reimbursement from Maine's Medicaid program, MaineCare, holding that the superior court did not err.In 2015, the Board of Licensure in Medicine censured Dr. Doane based on his prescription practices leading to the 2012 death of a patient by apparent overdose. In 2015, the Department terminated Dr. Doane's participation in MaineCare. Thereafter, Doane filed a complaint seeking a declaratory judgment that the Department lacked jurisdiction to terminate his MaineCare participation. On appeal, the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the Department had jurisdiction. Thereafter, the acting Commissioner ruled that the Department correctly terminated Doane's participation in the MaineCare program. The superior court affirmed. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that substantial evidence supported the Department's decision. View "Doane v. Department of Health & Human Services" on Justia Law

by
In 2014, ALADS filed suit against defendants for breaches of their fiduciary duty to ALADS as members of its board of directors. ALADS obtained a temporary restraining order requiring the return of $100,000, and several weeks later a preliminary injunction preventing Defendant Macias from claiming to be a director. In 2018, the trial court entered judgment for ALADS, awarding damages sustained by ALADS and a permanent injunction, but found ALADS did not have standing to recover monetary compensation for its members. Afterwards, ALADs sought cost-of-proof sanctions, which the trial court denied. Both parties appealed.The Court of Appeal concluded that the trial court did not err in its conclusion that defendants breached their fiduciary duties to ALADS, or in its award of damages for harm to ALADS (except in one very minor respect), or in its award of a permanent injunction. However, the trial court did err when it concluded that ALADS did not have standing to seek the $7.8 million in damages on behalf of its members. The court explained that ALADS proved those damages without objection from defendants and had standing to do so. The court further concluded that ALADS was entitled to cost-of-proof sanctions. Accordingly, the court amended the judgment to include the $7.8 million in damages to ALADS's members, affirmed the judgment as amended, and remanded for the trial court to determine the appropriate amount of cost-of-proof sanctions. View "Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs v. Macias" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court granting Defendants' motion to dismiss this legal malpractice complaint and to compel arbitration based on the arbitration provision in the parties' engagement agreement, holding that the district court erred when it failed to stay the malpractice action.On appeal, Plaintiff argued that the arbitration provision and the engagement agreement were unenforceable and that the district court erred when it failed to stay the malpractice action as required by the Wyoming and Utah Uniform Arbitration Acts. The Supreme Court agreed, holding (1) the district court properly limited the scope of its arbitrability ruling to address only the enforceability of the arbitration provision; and (2) the district court erred when it dismissed the legal malpractice action upon ordering arbitration. View "Inman v. Grimmer" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court affirming the Department of Public Safety's denial of Appellant's application for a professional investigator license, holding that Appellant's First Amendment rights were not violated by the application of statutory competency standards to his conduct on social media.The Department denied Appellant's application based on comments and posts that he had made on social media using an account bearing the name of his out-of-state private investigation business concerning a police lieutenant. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the circuit court's affirmation of the Department's decision, holding (1) intermediate scrutiny applies to the Department's application of the licensing statutes to Appellant's application; (2) the Department did not err in its findings; and (3) the Department's application of the licensing standards to Appellant did not violate the First Amendment. View "Gray v. Department of Public Safety" on Justia Law

by
A Delaware superior court affirmed decisions by the Delaware Secretary of State (the “Secretary”) and the Delaware Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline (the “Board”) to revoke Dr. Nihar Gala’s medical license and controlled substance registration (“CSR”). The court upheld the Board’s and Secretary’s decisions after finding that substantial evidence existed to support the issued discipline. On appeal, Gala argued: (1) the Board’s decision to deliberate “behind closed doors” rendered the record incomplete for judicial review; (2) the Board and the Secretary were biased; and (3) the Board’s and the Secretary’s decisions to revoke his medical license and CSR were not supported by substantial evidence. The Delaware Supreme Court found the the Board and Secretary's decisions were supported by substantial evidence and were free from legal error. Accordingly, it affirmed the superior court. View "Gala v. Bullock" on Justia Law

by
Appellants, Jillian Michaels and Empowered Media, filed suit against respondents, a law firm and its shareholder partner, for nine causes of action, including legal malpractice. The legal malpractice claim involved negotiating a branding contract with a diet supplement company called ThinCare. The trial court granted respondents' motions for summary judgment on six of the nine causes of action. Appellants subsequently moved to dismiss the remaining causes of action, which the trial court granted.The Court of Appeal held that the trial court abused its discretion by excluding portions of appellants' expert witness's declaration on damages. In reviewing the evidence, the court concluded that appellants have met their burden of establishing a material factual dispute on causation and their burden of establishing materiality on damages. Furthermore, appellants are not barred from recovery under the doctrine of unclean hands. Finally, the court concluded that there is a statute of limitations question involving materially disputed facts that cannot be resolved by a summary adjudication motion. Therefore, the court reversed the trial court court's grant of summary adjudication on the causes of action for legal malpractice, breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract, declaratory relief to rescind and void litigation agreement, and negligent misrepresentation. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Michaels v. Greenberg Traurig, LLP" on Justia Law

by
The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to HHW and DKH in an action brought by plaintiff, alleging professional malpractice and negligence. The court concluded that the district court did not err in ruling that the "Q" deduction did not apply to the estate return in January 2013, and DKH was not professionally negligent in failing to claim the deduction. Furthermore, the district court did not err in ruling that a certified public accountant was not negligent in failing to wait to file the return until the amendment was enacted.The court also concluded that the district court properly granted summary judgment on plaintiff's legal malpractice claim; the district court did not abuse its discretion in failing to sua sponte extend discovery deadlines to allow plaintiff to submit another expert affidavit; and the district court properly granted summary judgment on the aiding and abetting claim, as well as the RICO claim. Finally, the district court did not err in ruling that questions -- regarding whether an individual, who was not a party in this case, breached a fiduciary duty and whether the district court should declare specific rental rates -- were not at issue and denying summary judgment. View "Schreier v. Drealan Kvilhaug Hoefker & Co." on Justia Law

by
Klayman founded Judicial Watch in 1994 and was its general counsel until 2003. Following a 2013 complaint to the D.C. Bar, a Hearing Committee concluded that Klayman violated Professional Conduct Rules 8.4(d) and 1.9. One client, a former Judicial Watch employee, had alleged a hostile work environment. Klayman had advised Judicial Watch about her complaints. After Klayman left Judicial Watch and without seeking its consent, he entered an appearance on her behalf. Another client was a Judicial Watch donor, seeking the return of her donation, represented by Klayman without consent. The third client, a former Judicial Watch client, sued Judicial Watch; Klayman entered an appearance without seeking consent.The Hearing Committee found that Klayman violated Rule 1.9 or its Florida equivalent in all three representations, Klayman’s representation of the third client violated Rule 8.4(d), by “[e]ngag[ing] in conduct that seriously interferes with the administration of justice,” and that Klayman gave false testimony before the Committee. The Committee recommended a 90-day suspension, with reinstatement contingent upon a showing of his fitness to practice law. The Board on Professional Responsibility agreed with respect to Rule 1.9 but disagreed concerning Rule 8.4(d) and false testimony. It rejected the reinstatement condition. Suspended for 90 days by the D.C. Court of Appeals, Klayman did not challenge the Rule 1.9 finding but sought to avoid reciprocal discipline. The D.C. Circuit imposed a reciprocal 90-day suspension and referred the matter to the Committee on Admissions and Grievances for recommendations on whether further discipline is warranted. View "In re: Klayman" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs, a start‐up company and its founder (Marlowe), sued the company’s former chief legal officer, Fisher, to recover losses from an arbitration award that held them liable for years of unpaid wages owed to Fisher himself. The award comprised unpaid wages and statutory penalties totaling $864,976 and an additional $366,460 because Fisher did not receive written notice of his contract nonrenewal. Plaintiffs alleged that Fisher advised them to enter into what they now say was an illegal agreement to defer Fisher’s compensation until the company was able to secure more funding.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. Even if Marlowe was Fisher’s client regarding her own compensation agreement and a decision not to purchase directors and officers insurance, the plaintiffs failed to plead any plausible malpractice claims arising from those matters. Plaintiffs did not allege that they would have opted against using the compensation agreements had Fisher fully advised them. The company violated the Illinois Wage Act by failing to pay Fisher as agreed. The agreement did not aggravate or add to those violations; it made sense as an interim measure to forestall litigation by acknowledging the obligation and committing the company to one way to satisfy it. View "UFT Commercial Finance, LLC v. Fisher" on Justia Law