Third Circuit Reaffirms Heightened Securities Fraud Standard

One of the most difficult aspects of defending investor misrepresentation claims is that they naturally occur after a financial calamity. In retrospect, there is almost always an argument that a statement here, or omission there, was "misleading" in light of the company's ultimate fate. It is for this very reason that common law imposes a heightened standard for investors attempting to bring such a claim for what is essentially statutory fraud. In a recent decision from the Third Circuit, the Court reiterated this heightened pleading standard, and the policy for doing so, in dismissing a complaint at the pleading stage.
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NJ Considering Bill to Shorten Malpractice Statute of Limitations

A measure that would shorten the statute of limitations for New Jersey malpractice claims against certain licensed professionals, including attorneys, from six years to two years, passed the Assembly Judiciary Committee on March 18 in Trenton. Although a small step, this is encouraging for many New Jersey professionals, and the attorneys who defend them.
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Pennsylvania Opens Door to Lawsuits Against Foreign Companies

The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution limits the authority of courts to exercise jurisdiction over non-resident defendants. Before a court can exercise personal jurisdiction over a party, the Constitution requires that the party have certain "minimum contacts" in the state where the court sits. Jurisdiction may be satisfied when the suit arises from the foreign person's activities in the forum state. Further, with respect to foreign companies, jurisdiction may be satisfied regardless of the nature of the lawsuit if the company has continuous and systematic contacts with the forum state or if it consents to jurisdiction there. Courts have been divided, however, as to what actions by a company constitute consent to jurisdiction in the forum state. For instance, does a foreign corporation's mere registration to conduct business in a state satisfy the constitutional threshold? In two recent decisions, the Pennsylvania Superior Court resolved that it does.
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How Long Is Too Long to Wait for Malpractice Actions?

One of the most common problems facing a would-be plaintiff considering a malpractice case is when to file suit. Similarly, those that defend professionals must consider whether to move to stay proceedings if applicable. Especially with accountants and attorneys, causation and damages are difficult to calculate until the underlying matter has concluded. This means that the notoriously long legal process can often come into conflict with the statute of limitations, or create evidentiary problems. The decision is whether to wait many years for the underlying action to conclude and damages to materialize, or continue with the malpractice action in the midst of unresolved issues although the facts are still fresh in witness’s minds. In a recent Texas appellate decision, the court ruled that the case should proceed immediately.
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Electronic Notifications for Affidavits of Merit?

The New Jersey Supreme Court recently declined to dismiss a medical malpractice case for an attorney’s failure to file a timely affidavit of merit (AOM). The court based its decision in large part on the trial court’s failure to schedule a preliminary conference (called a "Ferreira" conference in NJ) to discuss the sufficiency of the AOM. The court further stated that it would order improvements to the courts’ automated case management system to ensure the electronic notification of both the AOM filing obligation and the scheduling of such Ferreira conferences. 
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Arbitration Clauses Put to the Test in LTC Suits

Arbitration agreements are relatively common in nursing home agreements but often are not enforced by courts. One basis courts rely upon in refusing to enforce arbitration agreements are state court rules that require certain claims to proceed to trial. The U.S. Supreme Court recently declined to hear the appeal of a Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision requiring a survival claim to proceed to arbitration, despite a local rule that requires trial for such claims. The decision provides some clarity on how courts will assess clashes between the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) and contrary state laws at a time when clarity is needed on this topic in light of the recent decision by CMS (Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services) to postpone its ban on arbitration agreements in nursing homes.
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Bankruptcy Law Preempts State Claim for Wrongful Use of Civil Proceedings

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.
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CPA Takes Advantage of Procedural Quirk

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.
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When Does the Clock Start?

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.
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Breach of Contract or Tort? Does it Matter?

The professional-client relationship often begins with a retainer agreement/engagement letter: a contract that defines the terms and scope of professional services. Accordingly, when a client files suit alleging professional malpractice, the claims will generally sound in both contract and tort. Whether a claim is asserted as a breach of contract or tort can have important implications with regard to the statute of limitations and other potential defenses. For instance, depending on the state, a tort claim may be time-barred where a breach of contract claim is not.
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