The Risks of Online Consultation

We’re inundated with online advice, whether solicited or not. Many of us utilize various online sources to obtain quick answers without live, in-person consultation from a licensed professional. WebMD is the classic example of such a site but there are countless others devoted to providing professional advice to an unknown audience. We previously warned of the malpractice and ethical risks of providing online professional services when we posted about the lawsuit filed against Dr. Oz following his infamous “sleep aid solution.” To combat these risks, some jurisdictions regulate the use of online services for various classes of professionals. Such regulations were brought to the test when an internet savvy veterinarian recently filed suit against a Texas regulatory board for suspending his license.
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Avoiding the Courtroom through a Mediation Clause

Litigation costs are higher today than ever. A recent Duke University survey revealed that litigation costs continue to rise and are consuming an increasing percentage of US corporate revenue. Since 2000, litigation costs have increased 73% and that increase is not due to higher hourly rates but rather more lawsuits. What is the takeaway for you Mr./Ms. Professional? Stay out of the courtroom! You’re reading Professional Liability Matters so you have adopted some risk management savvy but inevitably you are likely to confront some dispute despite your best efforts. Accordingly, your engagement letter and particularly a well-tailored mediation/arbitration clause may be the perfect safety net.
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Firing Problem Employees: A How-To Guide

“They come into work disheveled and drunk. They swear while talking to customers. They have sex with a co-worker in the stockroom. Or worse yet, they steal money from the company or threaten to hurt the boss. Some employees turn out to be bad news for a company and need to be fired, but how can a company show misbehaving workers the door while protecting itself from wrongful termination or discrimination suits?” Our friends at Law360 provide great insight on the difficult and risky task of terminating an employee, here.
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LinkedIn Escapes Cyber-Liability Exposure

In June 2012, the popular social networking website LinkedIn was hacked resulting in approximately 6.4 million passwords stolen from the website. Within hours of the incident, the passwords were posted on the internet and were used to direct traffic to fraudulent websites. The massive security breach also resulted in a class action lawsuit against "the world's largest professional network" in the Northern District of California. The plaintiff class alleged that LinkedIn failed to adequately and properly secure the personal information stored on its website. This is the classic example of cyber-liability exposure.
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What’s the Going Rate to Buy a Witness? About $10,000 an Hour…

Parties are free to pay fact witnesses exorbitant fees, according to New York’s highest court, so long as the jury is alerted to the potential for bias. In a recent decision before the New York Appellate Division, an orthopedic surgeon received $10,000 to testify against a woman he treated after she allegedly fell while walking her dog in Peekskill, New York. Notably, the surgeon did not provide expert advice, rather he received the hefty sum to merely recount for the jury his conversations with the plaintiff during his examination. This raises some concerns regarding ethical treatment of witnesses.
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Rutgers: Don’t Look at Me…My Lawyer Made Me Do It

As is so often the case, with mounting pressure and criticism comes finger-pointing. In the midst of a well-publicized scandal, Rutgers University is now suggesting that poor advice from its outside counsel led to a series of infamous decisions regarding its former basketball coach. According to reports, as Rutgers' athletic director Tim Pernetti resigned Friday amid the scandal over men’s basketball coach Mike Rice’s unorthodox practices, he blamed the school administration for following a “process” that allowed Rice to stay on-board. With its back against the wall, Rutgers laid part of the blame on the Roseland, New Jersey law firm that allegedly balked at recommending Rice’s termination.
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Serious Sanctions Imposed for Deleting a Facebook Account

A New Jersey federal judge recently ruled that a plaintiff's deletion of his Facebook account amounted to the sanctionable destruction of evidence. This decision has major implications on social media discovery in all litigation. Some experts believe that this result proves that “social media access is fair game in litigation and that workers who try to conceal their online lives will pay a high price.”
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When Professional Misconduct = Unfair Trade Practices

The California Court of Appeals recently concluded that professional malpractice and ethical violations may give rise to liability for unfair trade practices. In the underlying dispute, attorney Martin Guajardo, the sole shareholder in his own law firm, sold his practice because he faced disciplinary action brought by the state bar. Although Attorney Guajardo ultimately resigned from the bar, he continued to practice law following the sale of his firm. The People of the State of California filed a complaint against Guajardo, and the new firm, alleging unlawful, unfair, and deceptive business practices based upon Guajardo’s unauthorized practice of law. On appeal, the court concluded that Guajardo’s ethical violations also supported a claim under the state’s unfair trade practices act.
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A Case Study for Employers on Whistleblower Laws

Whistleblower laws are generally designed to prohibit employers from taking retaliatory action against an employee because the employee engages in protected conduct. For example, an employer may not retaliate against an employee for disclosing the employer’s violation of laws or ethics, providing testimony about the employer, or refusing to engage in inappropriate conduct. In a recent decision, the New Jersey Superior Court considered whether an employee’s reliance upon a professional code of ethics not applicable to his employer is sufficient to support a claim under…
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Hollywood Heist Leads to Cyber Liability Suit

The fact pattern sounds like it was ripped from the pages of a Hollywood screenplay. Two criminals back a trailer to a pharmaceutical warehouse and cut a hole in the ceiling of the facility. They proceed to utilize the company’s own forklifts to load over $80 million in prescription drugs into the trailer and exit without detection on any security cameras. All told, authorities estimate that the heist represents the largest known theft of prescription drugs in US history. The last scene in this bizarre, real world thriller takes place in the Federal District Court of Connecticut where the parties are fighting the first cyber liability suit of its kind with major implications on the fiduciary responsibilities of data storage and security companies.
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