Author Archives: Angeline N. Ioannou

Frivolous Lawsuit Leads to Serious Damages

At one point or another, many attorneys will encounter a lawsuit they believe to be potentially frivolous. These claims often lead to frustration for the defending attorney and client who may face two difficult alternatives: (a) settle the case in order to avoid defense costs or (b) expend time and money in defending a meritless claim. A recent case out of Pennsylvania may give some hope to those forced to defend weak claims and might give pause to anyone considering such a suit in the future.

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Malpractice for a Client’s Failure to Report

Although some law schools are notorious for offering elective courses like “space law” that are of limited practical use to most attorneys, there is still a set of core classes that are invariably recommended. Courses such as tax law and corporate law often fall into this group, as most lawyers will have to consider tax repercussions or the structure of a company at some point in their careers, regardless of their practice area. One big firm is now learning that despite the dearth of classes in insurance law, it is a subject that every attorney should become familiar with.

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When Clients Turn on their Lawyers

Have you heard of the “Pharma Bro”; the CEO who, according to reports, notoriously purchased a drug used to treat AIDS patients only to dramatically increase its price? He’s made considerable press recently and now he’s turning on his lawyers. In a recent hearing, lawyers for pharmaceutical hedge fund manager Martin Shkreli requested a delay in scheduling trial as they contemplate asserting “reliance of counsel” as a defense.

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Fee Dispute Arises from Largest Med-Mal Verdict in CT

A law firm in Connecticut recently recovered the largest med-mal verdict ever in the state only to be sued by their client for malpractice. How does that happen? We’ll tell you. Plaintiffs retained a well-known Connecticut law firm (“Firm”) to represent them in a med-mal claim alleging that Defendant Doctor (“Dr.”) made significant errors during childbirth which caused Plaintiffs’ son being born with cerebral palsy. In 2011, a jury returned a verdict for Plaintiffs, and awarded $58 million – the largest medical malpractice verdict in Connecticut state history. Following verdict, the parties settled for $25 million.

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Coverage Denied for Failing to Report

Obtaining malpractice insurance is an essential component of risk management for professionals. But, the obligations continue beyond the purchase. Like any contract, both sides are bound to comply with the contractual terms: the insurer and the insured. Accordingly, professionals must take the time to familiarize themselves with the scope of policy coverage and specific policy exclusions. Failure to fulfill the requirements of a policy provision could mean the loss of coverage and individual exposure.

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Egregious Conduct Warrants Mistrial

e·gre·gious: adjective; outstandingly bad/shocking. In the malpractice context, egregious is used to describe conduct that is so extraordinary that it may violate the rules of Professional Conduct. What is considered egregious can vary depending on the circumstances of the case and often is defined by the end result. Take for example the following case, where counsel’s egregious conduct resulted in a mistrial. According to the court: “That word – egregious—is difficult to write, but nothing else seems adequate.”

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Lessons from Sony: Cyber Attack

Sony Pictures recently became the target of a sophisticated and debilitating digital attack. The first signs of the hack appeared in late November, when an image of a skull flashed on every employee’s computer screen accompanied by a threatening message that the company’s internal data had been compromised. The company initially experienced a shutdown of many of its computers. In the following days, the hackers began to leak private company data. Five Sony films, including four unreleased projects were leaked online, along with compensation information for the top seventeen Sony executives and social security information for more than 6,000 current and former employees. In addition, countless confidential email exchanges were exposed to the public. One month on, Sony continues to suffer fallout from the attack, including the suspension of several film projects due to the inability to process payments, and a decision earlier this week to cancel the release of the upcoming comedy The Interview.

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Well Documented Advice Defeats Malpractice Claim

The best is not always good enough. Clients sue their professionals, whether justified or not. So, while there is no way to eliminate malpractice exposure, there are plenty of steps to avoid or help to defend such a suit. One of the golden rules of risk management is to properly maintain a written record of communications with the client. In particular, documentation is especially important when the client and professional may disagree. A well-documented file will not prevent all lawsuits but, as exemplified in a recent New Jersey decision, may serve as a dispositive defense during litigation.

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Employer Liability for Employee’s Online Activity

Many employers have made great strides in adapting to the risks posed by online activity. Some maintain employee handbooks with social media and computer use policies. Others provide training and many monitor employee use of employer-provided devices. But risks still remain. Take, for example, the recent Indiana appellate decision regarding potential employer liability for an employee’s online conduct.

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Cyber-liability: An International Problem

Legislation was recently introduced in the Australian parliament that would require companies to publicly disclose data security breaches. The legislation is intended to protect the public by ensuring they are promptly notified if their personal data is compromised. Under the proposed legislation, an administrative agency in Australia would be empowered to levy fines of up to $1.7 million on companies that fail to comply with the disclosure requirements. Clearly, cyber-liability is an international problem.

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