Justia Professional Malpractice & Ethics Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Professional Malpractice & Ethics
United States v. Bauer
Bauer worked as a physician for over 50 years, most recently in pain management at ANA. Bauer’s practice, which included regular prescribing controlled substances, became the subject of a DEA investigation. Bauer was indicted for knowingly or intentionally” distributing or dispensing controlled substances “except as authorized,” 21 U.S.C. 841(a), concerning 14 patients. The prosecution’s expert, Dr. King, opined that Bauer did not sufficiently establish a diagnosis and ignored “red flags.” Each patient had a history of at least two mental health conditions; several had histories of illegal drug use. Bauer drastically exceeded recommended thresholds and prescribed opioids together with other controlled substances. One patient died from an accidental overdose. None showed improvement. A drug task force officer alerted Bauer that a patient was selling his pills. Bauer did not terminate the patient but provided additional prescriptions. Several pharmacies would not fill his prescriptions. Dr. King opined that Bauer prescribed opioids “in most cases” to support “addiction and dependency,” “without a legitimate medical purpose.”The Sixth Circuit affirmed Bauer’s convictions and 60-month sentence (below the Guidelines range). A jury could reasonably find that Bauer knew his prescriptions were without authorization, satisfying the mens rea requirement clarified by the Supreme Court in 2022. The district court did not plainly err in its jury instruction on the good-faith defense. The court rejected Bauer’s challenges to the exclusion of his proffered expert witnesses and his argument that he had a constitutional right to testify as an expert in his own defense. View "United States v. Bauer" on Justia Law
In re Edwards v. New Century Hospice
At issue before the Colorado Supreme Court in this matter was a trial court’s order denying immunity to Defendant New Century Hospice, Inc. and its subsidiaries, Defendants Legacy Hospice, LLC, d/b/a New Century Hospice of Denver, LLC, and Legacy Hospice of Colorado Springs, LLC (collectively, “New Century”). New Century argued it was entitled to immunity under four different statutes. Tana Edwards filed suit against New Century (her former employer) and Kathleen Johnson, the Director of Operations for New Century Castle Rock (collectively, “Defendants”). As part of her employment with New Century, Edwards provided in-home care to an elderly patient. In December 2019, Johnson began to suspect that Edwards was diverting pain medications from the patient. Defendants reported the suspected drug diversion to the Castle Rock Police Department and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (“CDPHE”). Defendants also lodged a complaint against Edwards’s nursing license with the Colorado Board of Nursing (“the Board”). After investigations, no criminal charges were filed and no formal disciplinary actions were taken against Edwards. Edwards subsequently brought this action against Defendants, alleging claims for negligent supervision and negligent hiring against New Century, as well as claims for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress against New Century and Johnson. Defendants moved for summary judgment. The trial court granted the motion as to Edwards’s claims for negligent hiring, defamation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress, finding that the claims were either time-barred or could not be proven. Three of the statutes New Century cited for its immunity claim, 12-20-402(1), C.R.S. (2022) (“the Professions Act”), 12-255-123(2), C.R.S. (2022) (“the Nurse Practice Act”), and 18-6.5-108(3), C.R.S. (2022) (“the Mandatory Reporter statute”), only authorized immunity for a “person.” Relying on the plain meaning of “person,” the Supreme Court held that New Century was not entitled to immunity under these three statutes because it was a corporation, not a person. The fourth statute, 18-8-115, C.R.S. (2022) (“the Duty to Report statute”), explicitly entitled corporations to immunity, but only if certain conditions were met. Applying the plain language of the statute, the Supreme Court held that New Century was not entitled to summary judgment on the issue of immunity under this statute because it did not carry its burden of demonstrating that all such conditions were met. View "In re Edwards v. New Century Hospice" on Justia Law
Bock v. Bd. of Registration in Medicine
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the county court dismissing Petitioner's complaint seeking an order holding the Board of Registration in Medicine in contempt of an order of the Supreme Court, holding that the complaint was properly dismissed.After his license lapsed, Petitioner, who had been the subject of two disciplinary proceedings before the Board, filed a petition seeking immediate reinstatement of his license. Before the case could be heard, the Board agreed to reinstate Petitioner's license, and the parties entered into a voluntary stipulation of dismissal. Thereafter, the Board summarily suspended Petitioner's license because a second disciplinary proceeding had commenced against him. Petitioner then filed a complaint for civil contempt alleging that the temporary suspension was in contempt of the voluntary stipulation of dismissal. The complaint was dismissed without a hearing. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the third single justice properly dismissed the complaint. View "Bock v. Bd. of Registration in Medicine" on Justia Law
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