Justia Professional Malpractice & Ethics Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Supreme Court of Georgia
Hill, Kertscher & Wharton, LLP v. Moody et al.
“Under longstanding Georgia law,” when a client sues his former attorney for legal malpractice, the client impliedly waives the attorney-client privilege with respect to the underlying matter or matters to the extent necessary for the attorney to defend against the legal malpractice claim. The issue this case presented for the Georgia Supreme Court’s review was whether the implied waiver extended to the client’s communications with other attorneys who represented the client with respect to the same underlying matter, but whom the client chose not to sue. The trial court held that the waiver did not extend to such other counsel and therefore denied a motion for a protective order in this legal malpractice case. The Court of Appeals reversed. The issue presented was a matter of first impression for the Supreme Court, which held that when a client sues his former attorney for legal malpractice, the implied waiver of the attorney-client privilege extends to the client’s communications who represented the client with respect to the same underlying transaction or litigation. View "Hill, Kertscher & Wharton, LLP v. Moody et al." on Justia Law
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation v. Loudermilk
This case came to the Georgia Supreme Court by way of three certified questions from the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. As the receiver of the Buckhead Community Bank, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) sued nine former directors and officers of the Bank in federal district court, alleging that the former directors and officers were negligent and grossly negligent under Georgia law for their approval of ten commercial real-estate loans. At the conclusion of the trial, the jury found that some of the former directors and officers were negligent in approving four of ten loans at issue, and awarded the FDIC $4,986,993 in damages. The district court entered a final judgment in that amount and held the former directors and officers jointly and severally liable. They timely appealed to the Eleventh Circuit, arguing the district court erred by failing to instruct the jury on apportionment, which, they say, was required by OCGA 51-12-33 because purely pecuniary harms (such as the losses at issue here) were included within “injury to person or property” under Georgia’s apportionment statute. Concluding that these arguments required answers to questions of law that “have not been squarely answered by the Georgia Supreme Court or the Georgia Court of Appeals,” the Eleventh Circuit certified questions of Georgia law to the Georgia Supreme Court. The Georgia Court concluded OCGA 51-12-33 did apply to tort claims for purely pecuniary losses against bank directors and officers, but did not abrogate Georgia’s common-law rule imposing joint and several liability on tortfeasors who act in concert insofar as a claim of concerted action invokes the narrow and traditional common-law doctrine of concerted action based on a legal theory of mutual agency and thus imputed fault. View "Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation v. Loudermilk" on Justia Law
Inquiry concerning Judge Tammy Stokes
Judge Tammy Stokes was publicly reprimanded for admitted violations of the Georgia Code of Judicial conduct. The Georgia Supreme Court found Judge Stokes violated Rule 1.2(A), which required judges to “act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity and impartiality of the judiciary” by habitually starting court late or being absent with no good cause to excuse her behavior. View "Inquiry concerning Judge Tammy Stokes" on Justia Law
Delay v. Sutton
The issue this case presented for the Georgia Supreme Court concerned the constitutionality of the appointment process created by House Bill 597 (HB 597), a DeKalb County local law that delegated to private entities the power to appoint certain members of the DeKalb County Board of Ethics. The trial court found the appointment process created by HB 597 was unconstitutional and granted the writ of quo warranto as to four challenged Board members. The Board appealed this ruling, and the Supreme Court found the the trial court correctly granted the writ of quo warranto as to the four challenged Board members appointed by private entities, as these appointments were unconstitutional. View "Delay v. Sutton" on Justia Law
Inquiry concerning Judge Eddie Anderson
The Director of the Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC) brought formal charged against Eddie Anderson, the Chief Magistrate Judge for Tattnall County. The acts of judicial misconduct arose from the repossession of a vehicle from a woman by the owner of an automobile dealership due to lack of payment to the dealership and lack of insurance on the vehicle. Judge Anderson demanded via an ex parte phone call that the owner either return the woman’s repossessed vehicle or remit the money paid to the dealership for the vehicle and reimburse the woman for her insurance costs. When the owner refused these ex parte demands, Judge Anderson advised the woman to file a case against the owner in his court, which she later did. Judge Anderson undermined the public integrity and impartiality of the judiciary by advising the woman to file a case and by making ex parte demands before a case was even filed. Moreover, Judge Anderson’s demands and the woman’s subsequent lawsuit violated clearly established law. The Georgia Supreme Court accepted an agreement between the JQC and Judge Anderson that he be publicly reprimanded for his admitted violations of the Georgia Code of Judicial Conduct. View "Inquiry concerning Judge Eddie Anderson" on Justia Law
Goldstein, Garber & Salama, LLC v. J.B.
Plaintiff-appellee J.B. was injured when certified registered nurse anesthetist (“CRNA”) Paul Serdula sexually assaulted her in a surgical suite in the dental practice of defendant-appellant Goldstein, Garber and Salama, LLC (GGS). Serdula was hired by GGS as an independent contractor through anesthesia staffing agency Certified Anesthesia Providers; in accordance with its standard practice, that agency conducted an independent credentialing process on Serdula prior to placing him in any medical or dental facilities. The Georgia Supreme Court granted certiorari to the Court of Appeals to determine whether the Court of Appeals erred in concluding that a reasonable jury could find that a third party’s sexual molestation of J.B. was an act foreseeable by GGS, whether the appellate court erred in affirming the trial court’s denial of GGS’s motion for a directed verdict on the issue of negligence per se, and whether GGS waived any objection to the jury verdict’s apportionment of fault. Finding that appellate court misinterpreted OCGA 43-11-21.1, GGS’s motion for a directed verdict should have been granted. View "Goldstein, Garber & Salama, LLC v. J.B." on Justia Law