Justia Professional Malpractice & Ethics Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of a single justice of the court affirming the decision and order of the Board of Registration in Medicine suspending Petitioner's license to practice medicine, holding that the Board's decision was supported by the evidence and was not legally erroneous, procedurally defective, or arbitrary or capricious.A magistrate concluded that Petitioner was subject to discipline by the Board because his disruptive behavior on two separate occasions amounted to misconduct and demonstrated that Petitioner engaged in conduct that undermined the public confidence in the integrity of the medical profession. The Board adopted the findings and conclusions of the magistrate and concluded that Petitioner's actions warranted an indefinite suspension of his license to practice medicine. The single justice affirmed. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the Board's decision was supported by the evidence, and (2) Petitioner failed to demonstrate that the decision was legally erroneous, procedurally defective, or arbitrary and capricious. View "Schwartz v. Board of Registration in Medicine" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court dismissing Plaintiff's complaint for failure to attach an affidavit of merit after concluding that her allegations sounded in professional negligence, holding that remand for further proceedings was required.At issue in this case was the relationship between Nevada's professional negligence statutes, Nev. Rev. Stat. Ch. 41A, and Nevada's elder abuse statute, Nev. Rev. Stat. 41.1395, and the statutes' application to claims against skilled nursing home facilities. The district court concluded that Plaintiff's allegations sounded in professional negligence, which claims require Plaintiffs to include an affidavit of merit as part of their complaint, and then dismissed the complaint for failure to attach such an affidavit. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) on the face of Plaintiff's complaint it was unclear whether the gravamen of her claims sounded in professional negligence rather than elder abuse; and (2) remand was required for further factual development before such a determination can be reached. View "Yafchak v. South Las Vegas Medical Investors, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission ("the JIC") filed a complaint against Judge John Randall "Randy" Jinks, the Probate Judge for Talladega County, Alabama, alleging that he had violated the Alabama Canons of Judicial Ethics by frequently exhibiting an inappropriate demeanor, by inappropriately using a work-assigned computer and a work-assigned cellular telephone, and by abusing the prestige of the Office of Probate Judge. The Alabama Court of the Judiciary, ("the COJ") found that the evidence supported some of the charges alleged and removed Judge Jinks from office. Judge Jinks appealed. After reviewing the record in this case, the Mississippi Supreme Court concluded that the judgment of the COJ was supported by clear and convincing evidence. Accordingly, the judgment of the COJ was affirmed. View "Jinks v. Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision of the Board of Registration suspending Physician's license to practice medicine on the basis that Physician violated 243 Code Mass. Regs. 2.07(11)(a)(1), holding that the Board's findings that Physician violated the Board's regulations were supported by substantial evidence and that the decision was not arbitrary or capricious.The Board initiated a formal adjudicatory proceeding against Physician, after which a magistrate found that Physician had violated 243 Code Mass. Regs. 2.07(11)(a), which prohibits advertising that is false, deceptive, or misleading, and also violated 243 Code Mass. Regs. 1.03(5)(a)(10). The Board adopted the magistrate's findings of fact and conclusions of law and issued an indefinite suspension of Physician's license to practice medicine. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the Board's regulations do not offend due process; (2) the Board's findings were supported by substantial evidence; and (3) neither the findings nor the sanction imposed were arbitrary or capricious. View "Welter v. Bd. of Registration in Medicine" on Justia Law

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The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (Commission) and the Committee of Credentials of the Commission on Teacher Credentialing (Committee) appealed a judgment and peremptory writ of prohibition directing them to discontinue certain investigative proceedings against present and former public school administrators Kathy Little, Simone Kovats, and Debra Sather (together, the administrators). The Committee commenced an initial review of the administrators’ fitness to continue as credential holders in 2019. Nonparty John Villani was a special education teacher employed by the District between 2011 and 2014. Villani sued the District in 2016 alleging the District unlawfully retaliated against him after he reported that a teacher-aide, David Yoder, was “grooming” and paying inappropriate attention to some of the minor students in his care. Yoder was subsequently charged and convicted of several felony sex offenses against minors, including an offense against one of the aforementioned students. As relevant here, Villani’s lawsuit also alleged the administrators ignored his concerns about Yoder. The Commission learned about Villani’s lawsuit from a news article; the Commission thereafter launched its investigation. The administrators objected to the manner in which the Commission had obtained documents and information from Villani and argued the Committee had not established jurisdiction to review their credentials. The administrators demanded the Commission cease the investigation and the Committee drop the scheduled meetings. The Commission and Committee argued the trial court erred in ruling the administrators were excused from exhausting administrative remedies and misinterpreted Education Code section 44242.5, which defined the scope of the Committee’s jurisdiction. Finding no error, the Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment and writ. View "Little v. Com. on Teacher Credentialing" on Justia Law

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Memphis attorney Skouteris practiced plaintiff-side, personal injury law. He routinely settled cases without permission, forged client signatures on settlement checks, and deposited those checks into his own account. Skouteris was arrested on state charges, was disbarred, and was indicted in federal court for bank fraud. At Skouteris’s federal trial, lay testimony suggested that Skouteris was not acting under any sort of diminished cognitive capacity. Two psychologists examined Skouteris. The defense expert maintained that Skouteris suffered from a “major depressive disorder,” “alcohol use disorder,” and “seizure disorder,” which began during Skouteris’s college football career, which, taken together, would have “significantly limited” Skouteris’s “ability to organize his mental efforts.” The government’s expert agreed that Skouteris suffered from depression and alcohol use disorder but concluded that Skouteris was “capable of having the mental ability to form and carry out complex thoughts, schemes, and plans.” Skouteris’s attorney unsuccessfully sought a jury instruction that evidence of “diminished mental capacity” could provide “reasonable doubt that” Skouteris had the “requisite culpable state of mind.”Convicted, Skouteris had a sentencing range of 46-57 months, with enhancements for “losses,” abusing a position of trust or using a special skill, and committing an offense that resulted in “substantial financial hardship” to at least one victim. The district court varied downward for a sentence of 30 months plus restitution of $147,406. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence, the jury instructions, and the sentence. View "United States v. Skouteris" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming Defendant's conviction of disclosing confidential information in violation of Ohio Rev. Code 102.03(B), holding that a person who is subject to the jurisdiction of the Ohio Ethics Commission (Commission) may be criminally prosecuted for a violation of section 102.03(B) without the Commission first investigating or prosecuting the charge.Defendant, a sheriff, was found guilty of violating section 102.03(B), a provision of Ohio's ethics law, for posting confidential information on the website of the sheriff's office. At issue on appeal was whether a criminal prosecution may be brought alleging a violation of section 102.03(B) without a prior review of the charges by the Commission. The court of appeals held that the trial court properly refused to dismiss the charges against Defendant on these grounds. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that prosecutions may be brought by a prosecuting authority before the Commission initiates or completes its investigation. View "State v. Towns" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the single justice of the court affirming a decision of the Board of Registration in Podiatry that revoked Thomas Franchini's license to practice podiatry in Massachusetts, holding that the Board's decision was not arbitrary or capricious, was supported by substantial evidence, and did not suffer from any other defect enumerated under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 30A, 14(7).A hearings officer found that Franchini knowingly made certain false and misleading statements in his licensure application and recommended that the Board impose disciplinary sanctions. The Board largely adopted the hearing officer's decision, finding that Franchini engaged in gross misconduct such as to call into question Franchini's ability to practice podiatry, dishonesty, fraud, or deceit, and knowingly making false statements in his application to the Board. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that Franchini should be subject to disciplinary sanctions. View "Franchini v. Bd. of Registration in Podiatry" on Justia Law

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Crane filed a complaint for retaliatory discharge, alleging that his employment with Midwest was terminated after he reported numerous health and safety violations to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. Crane was awarded $160,000 in compensatory damages and $625,000 in punitive damages. The appellate court affirmed. After losing the underlying action and paying damages to its former employee, Midwest filed a legal malpractice complaint against its attorneys and the Sandberg law firm, alleging that the attorneys failed to list all witnesses intended to be called at trial in compliance with Illinois Supreme Court Rule 213(f), resulting in six defense witnesses being barred from testifying, and several other errors.The circuit court denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss but certified a question for immediate appeal: Does Illinois’ public policy on punitive damages and/or the statutory prohibition on punitive damages [in legal malpractice actions, 735 ILCS 5/2-1115] bar recovery of incurred punitive damages in a legal malpractice case where the client alleges that, but for the attorney's negligence in the underlying case, the jury in the underlying case would have returned a verdict awarding either no punitive damages or punitive damages in a lesser sum?” The appellate court and Illinois Supreme Court answered the question in the negative and affirmed the judgment. View "Midwest Sanitary Service, Inc. v. Sandberg, Phoenix & Von Gontard, P.C." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the court of appeals denying a motion for writs of prohibition and mandamus, holding that there was no error.In the underlying medical negligence action, Petitioners filed a petition seeking a writ of prohibition in the court of appeals to prohibit the enforcement of a circuit court order directing them to provide Norton Healthcare with nine years of Facebook data. Alternatively, Petitioners sought a writ of mandamus directing the circuit court to enter a more constrained discovery order. The court of appeals denied the motion for writs of prohibition and mandamus. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Petitioners' series of general objections were without merit, and therefore, the court of appeals did not err in denying the writ. View "Leslie-Johnson v. Hon. Audra Eckerle" on Justia Law