The standard of care governing every professional begins with the scope of the engagement. That may seem fairly obvious to those in the professional malpractice community but it is often misunderstood by laypeople. Isn't a CPA engaged to detect fraud? Isn't a lawyer engaged to win my case? One of the difficult aspects of defending a malpractice case is overcoming the lay perspective of the precise role of a professional. Often the defense of a professional can turn on whether the fact finder fully understands the distinct role of the professional in the limited context of the facts presented. Accordingly, professionals should be proactive in ensuring that the parties and others refer to the applicable professional standard that governs the case.
Law firm financing has become an increasingly complex and interesting aspect of the legal business. From personal injury litigation loans, to the financing of the Gawker lawsuit by a Silicon Valley billionaire, it appears many want to get a piece of a lawsuit these days. However, the Second Circuit recently affirmed a district court ruling that law firms are still forbidden fruit for third-party financiers.
The Automatic Stay under U.S. Bankruptcy law is a powerful tool in the judicial system. By filing for bankruptcy, a person or entity immediately creates a cocoon of safety that is generally impenetrable without subjecting the offending party to punitive repercussions. In fact, even parties without knowledge of the bankruptcy filing may nevertheless face consequences from the presiding bankruptcy court for violating the Automatic Stay. Of course, this does not mean that parties can use a bankruptcy petition solely to protect themselves from outside pressures. The bankruptcy rules also allow a court to impose sanctions upon a party or its attorney if it the petition is found to have been filed frivolously. However, a Pennsylvania trial court recently reaffirmed that it remains within the bankruptcy court’s sole discretion to do so, and that any similar state court claim is preempted by federal law.
The idiosyncratic nature of the Louisiana legal system is one that is noted, if not explored, in many law schools around the country. Even as early as high school, many teachers will explain that Louisiana is unique insofar as its legal system is based primarily on Spanish and French civil law, rather than the British tradition used in the other 49 states. The differences between Louisiana and the rest of the country do not end there, however, and a large accounting firm was recently successful in obtaining dismissal of an action based on a Louisiana-specific accounting malpractice statute.
Attorney? Check. CEO? Check. Coverage? Unlikely. Some attorneys wear multiple hats. We have other interests, other business ventures, other opportunities to make a buck. Attorneys are often exposed to other areas of business depending on the nature of their practice. Through their role as counsel, or through other opportunities, some attorneys become more directly involved in non-legal businesses. The more traditional route is to switch to in-house counsel, but sometimes attorneys will go so far as to start a new company. While both are commonplace and not inherently problematic, issues begin to arise when an attorney is both practicing law and working for a company. The blurring of the line between lawyer and business executive not only creates potential conflicts of interest, but may have coverage consequences.
The closing of a home loan often involves multiple parties, and even a sophisticated buyer can be confused as to who represents whom. The individuals present can include representatives from the bank, real estate agents, title insurance agents, etc. However, each person in the room has a specifically defined role, and it is important for all parties to be aware of what these roles are.
It has been almost a decade since the subprime mortgage crisis rocked financial markets across the world. In response, we saw the introduction of the Dodd-Frank legislation, civil suits against many of the country’s largest banks, and the emergence of a new market for purchasing defaulted loans. Since this initial flurry of activity, the economy has slowly recovered and the topic largely disappeared from the public eye. However, the legal wake continues to reverberate in the foreclosure litigation arena, with mortgage holders continuing to search for additional sources of recovery on loans secured by underwater homes.
Between required law school classes and the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination, attorneys are given considerable training on the rules of professional conduct before starting a career. Attorneys get further refreshers on the rules when reviewing potential clients and the occasional issues that arise during representation. But how many attorneys review the rules of professional conduct that apply to the specific jurisdictions in which they practice? Considering the heavy overlap between the different states and model rules of professional conduct, doing so may seem like a waste of time. It isn't. Attorneys who fail to review their particular states’ rules do so at their own risk as distinctive rules do exist in many states.
The application of the statute of limitations affirmative defense is theoretically simple, yet practically complex. Often, the issue is when does the clock start; i.e. when does the claim accrue. The result varies by state and may come down to the specific fact pattern. The water may be muddied further if the plaintiff incurs more than one injury. This is relevant to the professional malpractice community. Take for example a recent California accountant malpractice case involving state and federal audits and $10 million on the line.