Attorneys Can’t Bury the Smoking Gun

The smoking gun. That key piece of evidence that will conclusively prove your client's case and guarantee victory may be out there. Truly dispositive evidence is rare, given that most cases turn on a series of events, an application of the law or several facts, as opposed to one document or one line of testimony. But what if you discover that key fact which is harmful to your own claim? It may be tempting to quickly settle the case without disclosing the smoking gun. Not so fast. A recent decision from the Western District of Pennsylvania has taken issue with that response from counsel for the plaintiff, and awarded sanctions for the failure to quickly dismiss the complaint.
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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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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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Attorney Disbarred for Conspiring to have Adversary Arrested

Many professionals are driven, competitive, proud and devoted to their craft. Professionals want to achieve success for their clients, they want to win. But what defines success? Professionals must stay within the rules of the road at all times or the result will most certainly be a total failure. Take for example the attorney accused of conspiring to setup his adversary on a DUI charge. You can’t make this stuff up.
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Attorney Jointly Liable with Client for Misconduct

Professionals must play the hand they’re dealt. Good, bad or ugly, a professional assesses the situation and provides a recommendation as to how to overcome certain obstacles and achieve the client’s objectives. However, professionals do not have unfettered authority. Rather, all classes of professionals are bound by certain guidelines which delineate how a professional must behave on behalf of the client. Professionals that stay the course will not be held accountable for the client’s indiscretions, mistakes or even intentional wrongdoing. But, in the rare scenario when a professional is complicit with the client, both may be held liable.
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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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Judicial Criticism Leads to One Year Ban

Professionals are passionate about their work. Consequently, professionals may become discouraged when they receive an unfavorable result. Professionals must be cautious in the manner in which they respond to bad outcomes, however. Taking to public forums to criticize a decision or ruling could result in a violation of rules of professional conduct and lead to personal liability.
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Lawyer Sanctioned for Employee’s Misconduct

An attorney can’t be held accountable for her client’s breach of the Rules of Professional Conduct, right? Wrong. Model Rule of Professional Conduct 1.15 provides that a lawyer cannot commingle a client’s property (i.e. money) with the lawyer’s. Seems simple enough: don’t mix personal with business. However, what happens when the lawyer complies with this standard but her employee doesn’t? According to a Texas state court, the lawyer is still responsible.
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Sanctions for Tainting Jury Pool

The Constitution guarantees the right to an impartial jury. This right is critical to ensuring a fair trial. While not specifically outlined in the Rules of Professional Conduct, it should go without saying that an attorney may not interfere with a party’s right to a fair trial. Nonetheless, PL Matters would have considerably less to discuss if professionals always followed the rules. Take for example the following case out of Texas where an attorney learned the hard way not to tamper with the jury process.
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Abuse of Process Examined

Combating bullies has recently become a trending topic, particularly with the rise of bullying on social media. However, in the legal world, bullies also run the risk of being sanctioned, as a recent fashion copyright infringement case illustrates. The suit, filed by graffiti artist RIME against fashion label Moschino, alleges illegal copying of a design. In response to the designers’ motion to dismiss, RIME filed its own motion, based in part on abuse of process. According to RIME, the designers’ motion to dismiss is a tactical and intentional attempt to scare and burden RIME in the hope that he will retract his lawsuit.
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