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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Liability for Failure to Report Misconduct

Many professionals are bound by a code of professional conduct. Sure, we have to play by the rules but those rules may require that we ensure others do as well. In a recent opinion, the Supreme Court of Ohio Board of Professional Conduct considered the circumstances in which an attorney is required to report rule violations by others. The Board addresses two specific questions in its opinion: (a) whether a lawyer prosecuting a malpractice case is obligated to report the defendant lawyer to the disciplinary authority and (b) whether the information acquired form the client regarding their prior lawyer’s conduct is privileged, thereby eliminating any duty to report.
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The Garden State: Malpractice Fee Shifting in NJ

New Jersey is known for its beaches and its tomatoes. In the malpractice community, New Jersey is also known for its unique rules on fee shifting. New Jersey allows successful litigants in attorney malpractice suits to recover as consequential damages the legal expenses and attorneys’ fees they incur in prosecuting the claim. We previously reported on the case of Innes v. Marzano-Lesnevich, pending before the New Jersey Supreme Court that could potentially expand the rules on fee shifting in malpractice cases. Well, the New Jersey Supreme Court has spoken and any attorney practicing in New Jersey should be aware of the outcome.
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Guilty by Law Office Association

It’s not uncommon for small or solo attorneys to join together with others to share in operating and overhead costs of running a law firm. Attorneys can sometimes share office space, personnel and equipment yet run completely different practices independent of each other. However, what happens when one attorney is sued? Can any of the other attorneys also be held liable? Of course not, right? Well, according to a decision out of Tennessee it’s not entirely out of the question.
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Representation Could Go Farther Than You Think  

Hired for A but sued for Z? It may be a more common problem than you think. In overturning a lower court’s decision granting summary judgment, the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court has added yet more fuel to the fire in the ever-evolving debate as to the scope of representation. In a recent decision, an appellate court held that an attorney tasked with a seemingly simple and defined engagement, may actually be on the hook for much more. This serves as an important reminder to effectively communicate with the client to ensure there is a consensus as to the scope and limits of the engagement.
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Spoliation Examined in LPL Context

It is a risk management necessity that professionals document their files appropriately and confirm conversations in writing. A recent NY decision goes further, and suggests that it may be wise to save original documents to reduce the likelihood of a spoliation argument. In that decision, the Appellate Division, Second Department of New York considered whether a former client was entitled to evaluate an original document to determine whether her fingerprints were on a settlement offer.
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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 Attorney Mixing Legal and Business Advice

Lawyers wear many hats; the key is not to wear them all simultaneously. Many lawyers are well versed in areas outside of the law and can be a source of non-legal knowledge for clients. However, lawyers need to be mindful when their services extend beyond the traditional landscape of legal advice. Mixing business interests and legal advice can easily get you in hot water if the transaction goes awry. Take for example the case of Burk & Reedy, LLP v. Am. Guarantee & Liab. Ins. Co., in which a professional liability insurer denied coverage for an attorney that was involved in both the legal and business aspects of a transaction.
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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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