Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Professional Malpractice & Ethics
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On November 21, 2017, Richard Bush presented to Saint Bernard Parish Hospital for depression and suicidal ideations. At the hospital, Dr. Miguel Aguilera treated and discharged him. Bush attempted re-admittance with the same complaints, but was refused re-admittance. Thereafter, Bush attempted suicide in the hospital bathroom. He was found alive and transported to University Hospital in New Orleans for treatment; however, he succumbed to his injuries from the suicide attempt and died on November 30, 2017. In November 2018, his wife, Patricia Bush, on behalf of herself, her daughters, Madalyn and Ashley Bush, and on behalf of the decedent, Richard Bush, filed a formal pro se complaint with the Patient Compensation Fund (“PCF”) to convene a medical review panel (“MRP”), naming Saint Bernard Parish Hospital and Dr. Aguilera for malpractice relating to Richard Bush's death. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted this writ application in order to determine: (1) whether contra non valentem interrupted prescription; and (2) whether the court of appeal erred in relying on documents that were not entered as evidence and were not part of the record. The Court found that, while contra non valentem may interrupt prescription in a wrongful death claim in certain instances, it did not interrupt prescription in this case due to the fact that the court of appeal incorrectly considered documents that were not in evidence. The Court reversed the court of appeal’s ruling in part, affirmed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Medical Review Panel for the Claim of Richard Bush" on Justia Law

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Dennis Henderson and James Henderson, individually and as co-trustees of the Rose Henderson Peterson Mineral Trust, appealed a district court judgment in which the court determined they paid themselves an unreasonable amount of compensation from the Trust for their duties as trustees. The court ordered the Trustees return a portion of the compensation and that all parties’ attorney fees be paid with Trust funds. On appeal, the North Dakota Supreme Court found the questions presented in this case were not barred by the law of the case doctrine or res judicata. Furthermore, the Court determined that additional findings were required concerning application of an exculpatory provision in the Trust as well as the issue of whether the doctrine of laches applies. The Court retained jurisdiction but remanded for additional findings. View "Matter of Rose Henderson Peterson Mineral Trust" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals that the attorney-immunity defense was inapplicable to federal wiretap claims but reversed and rendered judgment for the defendant-attorney on Plaintiffs' state wiretap claims, holding that the attorney-immunity defense was inapplicable to the federal wiretap claims but did attach to the state wiretap claims.Plaintiffs brought this private party civil suit asserting that Defendant and others had violated the federal and Texas wiretap statutes by using and disclosing illegally intercepted electronic communications. Defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing that she was immune from liability as a matter of law because Plaintiffs' claims all stemmed from her role as an attorney in a modification proceeding. The trial court agreed and rendered summary judgment for Defendant. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) Defendant was entitled to summary judgment on the state wiretapping claims; but (2) Defendant was not entitled to summary judgment on the claims under the federal wiretap statute because this Court is not convinced that federal courts would apply Texas's common-law attorney-immunity defense to that statute. View "Taylor v. Tolbert" on Justia Law

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Dr. Jacob Schmitz appealed a district court judgment ordering: (1) the State Board of Chiropractic Examiners to disclose a limited portion of a recording from an April 2020 executive session of the Board; (2) denying the disclosure of any portion of a May 2020 executive session; and (3) the denial of his motion for attorney’s fees. In June 2020, Dr. Schmitz commenced this lawsuit, alleging that the Board violated the law regarding access to public records and meetings. The North Dakota Supreme Court declined to address Dr. Schmitz’s allegation that his right to due process was violated by the in-camera review because it was not properly preserved; reversed the denial of attorney’s fees; and remanded for additional portions of the executive sessions to be disclosed to Dr. Schmitz and for a determination of an appropriate award of attorney’s fees. View "Schmitz v. State Board of Chiropractic Examiners" on Justia Law

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Pappas sued Dr. Chang for malpractice. During mediation, they agreed that Chang would pay Pappas $100,000. Both parties and their counsel signed a settlement agreement, which provided that Pappas “will execute a release of all claims ... in a more comprehensive settlement agreement ... to include a provision for mutual confidentiality as to the facts ... the terms and amount of this agreement.” The parties unsuccessfully negotiated the “more comprehensive settlement agreement” and “provision for mutual confidentiality” for months. Pappas discharged her attorney and, representing herself, advised Chang’s attorney that she would only comply with a confidentiality provision if she received $525,000, then sued Chang for breach of contract.The trial court ruled against Pappas “because she has not signed a ‘more comprehensive settlement agreement’ and release which includes a provision for mutual confidentiality.” In consolidated appeals, the court of appeal affirmed, rejecting an argument that a confidentiality provision would be against public policy and violate the Business and Professions Code. The court also rejected Chang’s appeal of the trial court’s denial of her attorney fees as costs of proof at trial (Code Civ. Proc., 2033.420) based on its finding that Pappas’s denial of two requests for admission was based on a good faith belief she would prevail at trial and that the requests went to the ultimate issue. View "Pappas v. Chang" on Justia Law

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Farnolo helped his clients file short‐form complaints in the multidistrict “Cook” litigation, involving product liability claims alleging injuries caused by Cook’s medical device—a filter designed to prevent pulmonary embolism. The case management order instructed all plaintiffs to complete a profile form with general personal and medical background information and details about their device and alleged injuries. In May 2019, the defendants notified attorney Farnolo that they did not have forms from his four clients. By late June, the forms still had not been filed. Farnolo never responded to the defendants' motion to dismiss.The district court dismissed the cases on July 19, 2019. Farnolo learned about the dismissal not by monitoring the docket, but from his client more than a year later. On August 18, 2020, he moved for reconsideration and reinstatement of the cases, claiming that he did not receive an electronic docket notification of the motion to dismiss; he attributed his delay in asking for reconsideration to his email inbox sending the dismissal order to his junk folder. The district court denied Farnolo’s motion as both untimely and meritless. The Seventh Circuit affirmed; all Rule 60(b) motions must be made within a “reasonable time” and Rule 60(c)(1) specifically requires requests for reconsideration predicated on excusable neglect to be brought within one year of entry of judgment. Inexcusable attorney negligence is not an exceptional circumstance justifying relief. View "Sides v. Cook Medical Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Roger Rodrigue claimed defendant Attorney Vincent Illuzzi negligently advised plaintiff to sign a Vermont workers’ compensation settlement that contained a general release barring recovery otherwise available from the third-party who injured him. Plaintiff appealed the trial court’s dismissal of the entire original complaint for failure to state a claim, grant of summary judgment in favor of defendant on an amended legal-malpractice claim, and denial of plaintiff’s request for findings following summary judgment. Finding no reversible error, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed. View "Rodrigue v. Illuzzi" on Justia Law

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Albright was severely injured in a car accident and used opioids to manage her chronic pain. She became addicted to opioids. Seeking treatment for her addiction, Albright turned to Dr. Christensen to administer a one-week in-patient detoxification program. Christensen started Albright with a patient-controlled analgesia pump to supply her with hydromorphone, a pain reliever; he also gave Albright phenobarbital, which depresses the central nervous system. Christensen terminated these treatments after Albright became “anxious and tearful” while the two discussed the treatment. Changing tack, Christensen twice administered Suboxone—an opioid-replacement medication—to Albright. On both occasions, Albright immediately developed muscle spasms, pain, contortions, restlessness, and feelings of temporary paralysis. She refused further treatment and was discharged. Albright still suffers shaking, muscle spasms, and emotional distress.The Sixth Circuit reversed the dismissal of Albright’s suit against Christensen. The suit sounds in medical malpractice rather than negligence. Michigan’s affidavit-of-merit and pre-suit-notice rules for medical-malpractice actions conflict with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and do not apply in diversity cases in federal court. Federal Rule 3 requires only the filing of a complaint to commence an action—nothing more. The district court mistakenly invoked Erie and applied the pre-suit-notice rule in Albright’s case. View "Albright v. Christensen" on Justia Law

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In 2006, Suburban, owned by Barus, and ROC formed ROC/Suburban LLC, which acted as a vendor to Suburban. In 2010, Barus retained attorney Carlson for legal advice in unwinding that relationship. ROC sued Suburban, alleging breach of fiduciary duty. The Gaspero Law Firm defended Suburban in the ROC litigation. In June 2015, the court entered judgment for ROC and ordered Suburban to pay 50% of the fair value of the assets that Barus had improperly transferred out of ROC/Suburban.In May 2016, Barus and Suburban filed a legal malpractice action against Carlson, who allegedly recommended or approved the self-help actions that resulted in the breach of fiduciary duties. The circuit court held that the claim was barred by the two-year statute of limitations (735 ILCS 5/13- 214.3(b)) because the injury began when the plaintiffs retained new counsel and that the plaintiffs knew they were injured in 2013 at the latest when the judge stated that Carlson had committed malpractice.The appellate court reversed; the Illinois Supreme Court agreed. The plaintiffs did not suffer a realized injury until the court found a breach of fiduciary duty and entered a judgment against them. Although plaintiffs may have been alerted in 2013 that counsel misadvised them, the possibility of damages was not actionable until the ROC litigation ended and plaintiffs became obligated to pay damages as a result of Carlson’s advice. View "Suburban Real Estate Services, Inc. v. Carlson" on Justia Law

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After losing their bids for the November 2019 elections for Quitman County Chancery and Circuit Clerk, Shirley Smith Taylor and Tea “Windless” Keeler, respectively, filed election contests. In July 2020, following a two-day trial of the consolidated contests, the court entered its Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, dismissing the election contests with prejudice and finding that six enumerated claims brought by Taylor and Keeler were frivolous.Further, the court denied Brenda Wiggs’s and T.H. “Butch” Scipper’s requests that Taylor and Keeler be sanctioned, and that Wiggs and Scipper be awarded attorneys’ fees under Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 11(b) and the Litigation Accountability Act of 1988 (LAA). The Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed in part the circuit court’s denial of an award of attorneys’ fees under Rule 11(b) since the court’s decision was not an abuse of discretion. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded in part the circuit court’s decision to deny the imposition of sanctions and award of attorneys’ fees under the LAA in light of its finding that six of Taylor’s and Keeler’s claims were frivolous. View "In Re: Contest of the November 5, 2019 General Election for the Chancery Clerk of Quitman, Mississippi" on Justia Law