Justia Professional Malpractice & Ethics Opinion Summaries

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Woodson received prenatal treatment from Dr. Ramsey at NorthShore Health Centers. Ramsey informed Woodson that she would likely need to deliver her baby by C-section. Ramsey delivered P.W. vaginally at Anonymous Hospital. Woodson noticed immediately that something was wrong with P.W.’s left arm. P.W.’s arm did not improve.NorthShore is a Federally-qualified health center (FQHC) that receives federal money (42 U.S.C. 1396d(l)(2)(B)); its employees are deemed Public Health Service employees, covered against malpractice claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 42 U.S.C. 233(g). NorthShore appears in the federal government's online public database of federal funding recipients whose employees may be deemed Public Health Service employees. Woodson’s attorney, Sandoval, failed to recognize NorthShore’s status as an FQHC. Sandoval reviewed the Indiana Department of Insurance (IDOI) and Indiana Patient’s Compensation Fund online databases and learned that Ramsey and Anonymous Hospital were “qualified” providers under the Indiana Medical Malpractice Act. The IDOI forwarded Woodson’s complaint to Ramsey and his insurance carrier. Those claims remain pending.On December 16, 2015, NorthShore informed Sandoval that NorthShore was a federally funded health center. Woodson filed administrative tort claims, which were denied. Nearly three years after P.W.’s birth, Woodson filed suit against the government and Anonymous Hospital. The Seventh Circuit affirmed that the claims accrued on December 7, 2013, the day P.W. was born, and were untimely under the FTCA’s two-year statute of limitations. Woodson had enough information shortly after P.W.'s birth to prompt her to inquire whether the manner of delivery caused P.W.’s injury. The FTCA savings provision does not apply because the IDOI never dismissed the claims. Neither Ramsey nor NorthShore had a duty to inform Woodson of their federal status. View "P.W. v. United States" on Justia Law

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This appeal arose from petitioner's mismanagement of two related businesses, Commonwealth Capital and Commonwealth Securities. After FINRA determined that petitioner misused investor funds and tried to cover it up, FINRA barred petitioner from the securities industry, fined her, and ordered her to disgorge certain misused expenses. The SEC affirmed the industry bar and disgorgement order.The DC Circuit affirmed, concluding that petitioner's ambitious constitutional arguments are futile for a simple reason: Congress has prohibited the court from considering issues not raised before the SEC. Furthermore, petitioner has not provided any reasonable grounds that would excuse her failure to exhaust her constitutional claims before the Commission. Nor has there been an intervening change in law that might have excused her failure to press these contentions below. The court also concluded that Saad v. SEC, 980 F.3d 103 (D.C. Cir. 2020), foreclosed petitioner's argument that her lifetime bar is impermissibly punitive. In this case, the SEC's remedial justification finds adequate support in the record. The court rejected petitioner's assertion that continuing education expenses misallocated to the funds—rather than to her companies—were not "net profit," and thus not appropriate for remedial disgorgement after Liu v. SEC, 140 S. Ct. 1936 (2020). Rather, by paying for continuing education expenses out of the funds, instead of her wholly-owned business, the court concluded that petitioner enriched herself by the amount of the savings. View "Springsteen-Abbott v. Securities and Exchange Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court granting partial summary judgment on Donald Clark's legal malpractice claim, holding that Clark may not use his prior successful ineffective assistance of counsel claims to establish preclusively the breach elements of his malpractice claims.Clark, who was represented at his criminal trial by a state public defender, was convicted of second-degree sexual abuse. Clark filed a postconviction relief (PCR) action seeking a new trial based on ineffective assistance of counsel. The PCR court concluded that Clark was entitled to a new trial, and the charges against Clark were eventually dismissed. Clark then brought this malpractice action against the State. In his motion for partial summary judgment, Clark asserted that the breach-of-duty element of his malpractice claim was conclusively established by the ruling of the PCR court under the doctrine of issue preclusion. The district court agreed and granted partial summary judgment. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the State as a defendant in the malpractice action was not the same party or in privity with a party in the PCR action; and (2) therefore, the elements of issue preclusion were not met. View "Clark v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of ALPS Property & Casualty Insurance Company and declaring that ALPS owed no duty to defend or indemnify Defendants in a malpractice suit, holding that the district court correctly granted summary judgment to ALPS.ALPS brought this action seeking a declaration that it owed no duty to defendant or indemnify Keller, Reynolds, Drake, Johnson & Gillespie, P.C. (the firm) or any of its members for claims Bryan Sandrock, GG&ME, LLC and DRAES, Inc. (collectively, Sandrock) asserted in a malpractice suit against the firm and three of its attorneys. In granting summary judgment for ALPS, the district court held that the firm's ALPS policy did not provide coverage for Sandrock's claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court correctly concluded that there was no coverage under the policy because a member of the firm knew the basis of the legal malpractice claim before the effective date of the policy. View "ALPS Property & Casualty Insurance Co. v. Keller" on Justia Law

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Carrie Thompson-Widmer appealed the dismissal of her claims of defamation and tortious interference with a business relationship against Kimberly Larson, Wells County, Eddy County, and Foster County. In January 2017, Larson filed a formal complaint with the State Board of Social Work Examiners against Thompson-Widmer on the basis of Thompson-Widmer’s actions in two child protection services cases. Larson alleged Thompson-Widmer misrepresented information about a child’s home environment in one case, and altered a report about methamphetamine in an infant’s meconium in the other case. Larson also met with a state’s attorney about Thompson-Widmer’s actions. The attorney referred the matter to a special prosecutor for consideration of potential criminal charges. Because the complaint to the State Board was filed while Thompson-Widmer was a Tri-County employee, Larson placed the complaint and the supporting documents in Thompson-Widmer’s employee personnel file. After the criminal investigation into Thompson-Widmer’s action was suspended, she became employed with Catholic Charities in April 2017. Tri-County worked with Catholic Charities on adoption placement cases. Larson’s staff informed her they did not feel comfortable working with Thompson- Widmer. Larson notified Catholic Charities that Tri-County would rather work with someone other than Thompson-Widmer. Catholic Charities submitted an open records request for Thompson-Widmer’s personnel file, and Larson fulfilled the request on Tri-County’s behalf. In May 2017, after receiving the personnel file, which included Larson’s complaint against Thompson-Widmer, Thompson-Widmer was terminated because she was not forthcoming about her issues while employed by Tri-County. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed, concluding Larson’s communications were privileged and therefore not subject to liability for defamation. View "Thompson-Widmer v. Larson, et al." on Justia Law

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Rebecca Burr appealed a district court judgment dismissing her complaint against the North Dakota Board of Dental Examiners. In mid-2019, Burr filed a complaint with the North Dakota Board of Dental Examiners alleging a dentist previously licensed by the Board committed aggravated assault and permanently maimed her in 1989. Her original complaint to the Board stated she had reached out to the Board in 1996 by sending a letter outlining some of the same complaints that were in the 2019 formal complaint. The Board responded to Burr’s complaint with a formal letter stating that it had determined “there is not a reasonable basis to believe that a violation of NDCC 43-28-18 or the rules promulgated by the Board occurred” and that the matter was dismissed without any action having been taken. In January 2020, Burr served the Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) a notice of claim in the amount of $250,000, alleging that the Board failed to satisfy its legal obligation to investigate her claim “and that the failure to do so caused Ms. Burr further harm, pain and suffering.” In February 2020, OMB notified Burr by letter that her claim had been denied. Burr did not pursue an administrative appeal of that decision. She then commenced this action by serving the Board and OMB with a summons and complaint in May 2020. The district court granted the Board’s motion to dismiss, finding it lacked jurisdiction, and concluding that the Board was entitled to both quasi-judicial immunity and discretionary immunity. On appeal, Burr argued the district court erred in concluding that the Board was entitled to discretionary immunity and in dismissing her complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "Burr v. N.D. State Board of Dental Examiners" on Justia Law

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Cutchin’s wife and daughter were killed in an automobile accident that occurred when another driver, Watson, age 72, struck their vehicle. Cutchin alleges that Watson’s driving ability was impaired by medications she had been prescribed, including an opioid. Cutchin filed a malpractice suit against Watson’s healthcare providers, charging them with negligence for an alleged failure to warn Watson that she should not be driving given the known motor and cognitive effects of those medications. After the providers and their malpractice insurer agreed to a settlement of $250,000, the maximum amount for which they can be held individually liable under the Indiana Medical Malpractice Act (MMA), Cutchin sought further relief from the Patient’s Compensation Fund, which acts as an excess insurer. The Fund argued that the MMA does not apply to Cutchin’s claim and that he is barred from seeking excess damages from the Fund. The district court agreed.The Seventh Circuit certified to the Indiana Supreme Court the questions: Whether Ithe MMA prohibits the Fund from contesting the Act’s applicability to a claim after the claimant concludes a court‐approved settlement with a qualified healthcare provider, and whether the MMA applies to claims brought against individuals (survivors) who did not receive medical care from the provider, but who are injured as a result of the provider’s negligence in providing medical treatment to someone else. View "Cutchin v. Robertson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the final judgment of the circuit court dismissing, for lack of jurisdiction, Petitioner's petition to impeach Honolulu City Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro under section 12-203 of the Revised Charter of the City and County of Honolulu, holding that Hawaii's Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA), Haw. Rev. Stat. Chapter 489E, did not apply to the petitions for impeachment in this case.Haw. Rev. Stat. 489E-7(d) states, "If a law requires a signature, an electronic signature satisfies the law." However, Haw. Rev. Stat. 489E-18(c) states that the UETA "does not require a governmental agency of this State to use or permit the use of electronic records or electronic signatures." In his motion to dismiss, Kaneshiro argued that electronic signatures did not satisfy the requirements for a petition to impeach the city prosecutor. The circuit court granted the motion, concluding that signatories to an impeachment petition under section 12-203 of the Revised Charter must provide handwritten signatures. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the UETA did not apply in this case. View "Yoshimura v. Kaneshiro" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the portion of the court of appeals' judgment declaring that the rules issued by the Texas Board of Chiropractic Examiners authorizing chiropractors to perform an eye-movement test for neurological problems known as VONT, holding that the challenged rules do not exceed the statutory scope of the chiropractic practice.The Texas Chiropractic Act defines the practice of chiropractic to include evaluating the musculoskeletal system and improving the subluxation complex. In 2006, the Board adopted a rule defining both terms as involving nerves in addition to muscles and bones. In 2010, the Board adopted a rule authorizing chiropractors to perform vestibular-ocular-nystagmus testing, or VONT. The Texas Medical Association (TMA) challenged the rules in court. The court of appeals concluded that the rules exceeded the scope of practice prescribed in the Act. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the challenged provisions are valid. View "Texas Board of Chiropractic Examiners v. Texas Medical Ass'n" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court granting Defendant summary judgment and dismissing Plaintiff's legal malpractice claim, holding that collateral estoppel and in pari delicto barred Plaintiff's legal malpractice claim.In 2018, the district court revoked The Mattheis Company's (the Company) liquor license. In 2019, the Company sued Richard Mulligan and Mulligan Law Office, P.C. (collectively, Mulligan), for legal malpractice related to the revocation of its liquor license. The district court granted Mulligan summary judgment based on collateral estoppel. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that collateral estoppel and in pari delicto barred the Company's legal malpractice claim. View "Mattheis Co. v. Mulligan" on Justia Law