Author Archives: Albert J. D'Aquino

Don’t Forget to Read Your Pleadings

World Wrestling Entertainment is punching back in a class action lawsuit filed by several of its former wrestlers. However, the WWE’s recent court filings take aim at the plaintiffs’ attorneys as much as the plaintiffs’ legal claims. The case provides us with a timely example of the ramifications of failing to carefully read pleadings before filing.

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What’s Reasonable Attorney Review?

Although some law firms are slow to embrace new technologies, debt collection firms appear to be the exception to this general rule. Most of these firms use sophisticated computer software to retrieve information from their creditor-clients, and use the program to automatically populates legal forms. This process saves a significant amount of time for attorneys in a high-volume field, allowing them to file hundreds of basic pleadings in a single day. However, this process has come under increasing scrutiny from both debtors’ rights firms and the government.

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Lawyer’s Privacy Concerns Trumped by Public Persona?  

In a recent and ongoing case out of California, a successful attorney’s highly visible public profile may have contributed to a judge ordering the disclosure of the attorney’s personal financial records in relation to a malpractice action initiated against the attorney. A Los Angeles plaintiff’s attorney was recently sued by 28 former clients, who allege that the attorney misappropriated more than $12.5 million of settlement funds. The plaintiffs claim that their former attorney never informed them of the terms of the $17 million settlement agreement, or provided accounting records related to the allocation of the settlement funds.

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What’s Adverse? Conflicting Clients Considered

The Model Rules of Professional Conduct prevent lawyers from representing conflicting clients. A conflict of interest may arise when the representation of one client will be directly adverse to another client. Just how far the requirement of “directly adverse” may extend was recently addressed by the Massachusetts Supreme Court in an interesting case involving IP litigation. While one inventor retained Firm to represent him on screwless eyeglass hinges another inventor had already retained Firm to secure a related patent in the screwless eyeglass market. Read on to see who got screwed.

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Proper Use of Expert Opinions

Expert witnesses are critical in many professional malpractice cases. This is particularly true in the med-mal context where expert testimony may be necessary to help understand causation. More specifically, experts in medical malpractice cases are essential in helping the fact finder determine whether the medical professional’s actions (or inactions) were the cause of the alleged injury. Whether an expert succeeds in this task can be the difference between a win and a loss at trial and in some cases on a motion for summary judgment. Take for example the following scenario.

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Death to the Company is Death to the AC Privilege

The law in Pennsylvania, like most other jurisdictions, is clear that the attorney-client privilege survives the death of an individual. However, until recently the law was not so clear as to whether that same privilege applies to a corporation after it dissolved or “died.” Earlier this year the Pennsylvania Superior Court answered this question in Red Visions Systems v. National Real Estate Information Services, and just recently, the state Supreme Court denied allocator, leaving the Superior Court’s decision as the law of the state.

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My Colleague’s Keeper – Benefits & Pitfalls of Law Firm Structures

There are many benefits to working in a professional firm including the ability to collaborate and seek support from colleagues. Teamwork amongst colleagues may improve efficiency, innovation, flexibility and branding. But, through the doctrine of vicarious liability, a professional may be liable for her colleague’s conduct in certain situations. There are various corporate models intended in part at protecting an individual for corporate (mis)conduct. But these models are not bulletproof. A recent New Jersey decision emphasizes the double-edged nature of practice in a professional corporation in the context of a multi-attorney law firm. In light of this case, we took a closer look at the benefits and risks of attorney partnerships.

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Blurred Lines: Professional Advisor or Business Partner?

Some professionals are regularly presented with the opportunity to engage in business ventures with their clients. Whether the professional is retained to review an investment opportunity for a client, provides advice regarding a client’s business, or invites a client to invest in a new venture, professionals may occasionally find themselves transitioning from the role of advisor, into that of a business partner. However, blurring the line between professional advisor and partner can easily lead to ethics violations and civil liability.

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Work-Product Doctrine Tested in Pennsylvania

Attorneys must communicate with expert witnesses to define the scope of the engagement, to prepare for trial, and to evaluate the evidence. Depending on the jurisdiction, some or all of that communication may be protected from disclosure pursuant to the attorney work-product doctrine. In Barrick v. Holy Spirit Hospital, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court considered the extent of the privilege in this context and reached a bright-line rule in favor of non-disclosure.

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Does a Corporation have Religious Freedom under the ACA?

Those with conflicting political views may still agree that many questions remain unanswered regarding the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, a/k/a “Obamacare.” The US Supreme Court recently agreed to address at least one of those lingering questions when it granted certiorari to hear Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores. The issue in Hobby Lobby is whether an employer may be subject to fines under the ACA for failing to provide health insurance coverage that includes the provision of birth control to employees. The plaintiff claims that this provision in the Act impermissibly conflicts with its religious views.

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