Justia Professional Malpractice & Ethics Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals
Continental Cas. Co. v. Law Offices of Melbourne Mills
The attorney represented more than 400 plaintiffs in a class action related to the diet drug Fen-Phen. Lawyers’ fees were to be limited to 30 percent of the clients' gross recovery. The case settled for almost $200 million. Plaintiffs together received $74 million, 37 percent of the settlement; $20 million was used to establish Kentucky Fund for Healthy Living. The attorney served on the Fund’s board, for which he received $5,350 monthly. The attorney knew that the Kentucky Bar Association was investigating fee division in the case and possible unauthorized practice of law by his paralegal. The attorney subsequently applied to renew his malpractice insurance and answered "no" to questions about possible pending claims and investigations. The policy excluded coverage for dishonest acts and omissions. Members of the class subsequently filed malpractice claims and were awarded $42 million. The insurer sought a declaration that it was entitled to rescind the policy. The district court granted the insurer summary judgment and awarded $233,674.49 for its outlay on defense costs. Class members intervened to protect their ability to recover. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Disbarment constituted a sufficient "regulatory ruling" under the dishonesty exclusion clause and there were material misrepresentations on the application. View "Continental Cas. Co. v. Law Offices of Melbourne Mills" on Justia Law
Muniz v. Smith
Petitioner, convicted of a non-fatal shooting, was sentenced as a habitual offender to 29-1/2 to 60 years for assault with intent to commit murder, to run concurrently with a sentence of 40 to 60 months for a felon-in-possession conviction, and a consecutive term of two years for a felony firearm conviction. He claims that his Sixth Amendment right to counsel was violated because his attorney fell asleep while he was being cross-examined. Michigan state courts rejected appeals. The district court denied habeas relief. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. At most, the attorney was asleep for part of a single cross-examination; a petitioner must show that his attorney slept through a substantial portion of the trial for the "Cronic" presumption of prejudice to attach. Noting the overwhelming evidence, the court stated that petition did not show a reasonable probability that counsel could have prevented prejudicial events from occurring had he been awake, much less that it would have affected the outcome of the trial. Although the attorney was later arrested for cocaine use, there was no evidence that he was using cocaine during the trial.. View "Muniz v. Smith" on Justia Law
Hancock v. Clippard
Plaintiff, an attorney who handled Chapter 11 proceedings for a client, submitted a petition for fees after the case was converted to a Chapter 7 proceeding. The bankruptcy court denied the petition because of the attorney's failure to comply with disclosure rules, abusive conduct toward others involved in the case, excessive or incomplete billing, and disruptive behavior. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, noting the attorney's "flagrant" disregard of deadlines and the rules for appeal.