Articles Posted in Professional Malpractice & Ethics

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Rubin Resources, Inc. filed a legal malpractice action against Garold Morris, alleging that Morris was negligent in performing a title examination and preparing a title opinion for Rubin regarding an oil and gas leasehold, resulting in $278,455 in damages. Morris did not dispute that he was negligent in performing the title examination and title opinion. The circuit court, however, granted summary judgment in favor of Morris, concluding that Morris’s negligence was not the proximate cause of Rubin’s damages. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the undisputed facts demonstrated that the damage Rubin asserted was the direct and proximate result of Morris’s professional negligence. View "Rubin Resources v. Morris" on Justia Law

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In 2001, the decedent presented to the Wetzel County Hospital Emergency Room in New Martinsville and came under the care of Dr. Murthy, a surgeon; she slipped into shock and died the next day. Her estate filed a medical negligence action, alleging that Murthy failed to perform exploratory surgery to identify, diagnose and correct the decedent’s “intraabdominal condition.” A jury awarded $4,000,000 in compensatory damages. After the trial, the circuit court allowed amendment of the complaint to add Murthy’s insurance carrier, Woodbrook, alleging that Woodbrook made all relevant decisions for Murthy’s defense and acted vexatiously and in bad faith. Following a remand, Murthy paid a reduced judgment, plus interest, in the total amount of $1,162,741.60 and filed motions in limine to preclude certain matters from consideration on the issue of attorney fees and costs, including an unrelated case that resulted in a $5,764,214.75 verdict against Dr. Murthy in March 2007. The court dismissed Woodbrook as a party-defendant and awarded the estate attorney fees and costs. The precise calculation was to be later determined. The Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia reversed, concluding that the lower court’s reliance on certain conduct by Murthy did not justify the award. View "Murthy v. Karpacs-Brown" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, who worked as a registered nurse at a Hospital, was terminated for allegedly violating the Hospital’s narcotic waste policies. Petitioner self-reported her termination to the West Virginia Board of Registered Professional Nurses. The Board issued a notice of complaint on April 2, 2013. On August 14, 2013, the Board issued an interim status report to the Hospital. A hearing was eventually set for January 20, 2015 but was continued until February 19, 2015. Petitioner filed this petition for a writ of prohibition asserting that the Board’s failure to resolve the complaint against her within one year from the date of the status report pursuant to W. Va. Code 30-1-5(c) divested it of jurisdiction to proceed on the complaint. The Supreme Court granted Petitioner’s requested relief, holding that the Board exceeded its jurisdiction in this case by failing to comply with the statutory mandates of section 30-1-5(c). View "State ex rel. Miles v. W. Va. Bd. of Registered Prof’l Nurses" on Justia Law

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David Bunch, a real estate appraiser holding a license issued by the West Virginia Real Estate Licensing and Certification Board, filed a petition for a writ of prohibition in the Circuit Court of Cabell County seeking to halt an administrative disciplinary proceeding initiated against him. The Board filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that it was a state agency, and, pursuant to W. Va. Code 14-2-2(a)(1), venue for the action was proper only in the Circuit Court of Kanawha County. The circuit court denied the motion, concluding that it was unclear whether the Board was a “state agency” for purposes of the venue statute. The Supreme Court granted the requested writ, holding that the Board is a state agency entitled to the special venue provisions of section 14-2-2(a)(1), and therefore, the circuit court erred when it allowed the action to proceed in the Circuit Court of Cabell County. View "State ex rel. W. Va. Real Estate Licensing & Cert. Bd. v. Hon. Christopher D. Chiles" on Justia Law

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Petitioner was a licensed physical therapist and the owner of a therapy center that operated two facilities. The West Virginia Board of Physical Therapy revoked Petitioner's license for failure to properly supervise physical therapist assistants and physical therapy aides employed by him. The circuit court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the circuit court properly found that Petitioner failed to directly supervise a physical therapy aide who was performing patient treatment; but (2) the circuit court erred in finding that Petitioner failed appropriately to supervise a physical therapist assistant who was performing patient treatment. Remanded. View "Sorongon v. W. Va. Bd. of Physical Therapy" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a legal malpractice action against two attorneys and a law firm (Respondents) alleging that their negligence resulted in failed collateral in securing a promissory note, particularly a defective deed on certain property. Plaintiff then sued a holding company and two individuals to recover the remaining balance due under the note. In the collection action, the circuit court entered a stipulated settlement that extinguished the parties' obligations under the note. In the malpractice action, the circuit court awarded summary judgment to Respondents, concluding that Plaintiff had failed to prove he sustained damages as a result of Respondents' alleged professional negligence because the stipulated settlement extinguished the defective deed upon which Plaintiff based his claim for damages. After the circuit court entered a subsequent nunc pro tunc order in the collection action omitting the language extinguishing the parties' obligations under the note, Plaintiff sought relief from the summary judgment ruling in the legal malpractice action. The circuit court denied relief. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiff failed to prove Respondents' alleged professional negligence caused him to sustain any purported damages; and (2) based on the law of judicial estoppel, the circuit court correctly ruled that Plaintiff was not entitled to relief from its earlier summary judgment ruling. View "Burnworth v. George" on Justia Law

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First National Keystone Bank retained an independent accounting firm to audit its records at a time that members of the bank's management were fraudulently concealing the bank's financial condition. The accounting firm issued a clean audit concerning the bank. It was later discovered that the bank had overstated its assets by over $500 million. Upon investigation, the FDIC concluded that the law firm that represented the bank had engaged in legal malpractice. The FDIC settled its claims against the law firm. The accounting firm was later found liable to the FDIC in federal district court for a negligent bank audit. The accounting firm subsequently sued the law firm, alleging fraud, negligent misrepresentation, and tortious interference with the accounting firm's contract to perform the audit. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of the law firm. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the claims of the accounting firm against the law firm were, in reality, contribution claims rather than direct or independent claims and were, therefore, barred by the settlement agreement between the law firm and the FDIC. View "Grant Thornton, LLP v. Kutak Rock, LLP" on Justia Law

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Appellants Farouk Abadir, Hosny Gabriel, Ricardo Ramos, Alfredo Rivas and Michael Vega sued their former attorney Mark Dellinger and his law firm Bowles Rice McDavid Graff & Love, LLP because Mr. Dellinger settled a case in which they were all defendants without their consent. The circuit court dismissed the case, concluding that the Supreme Court had already decided that Mr. Dellinger had the âapparentâ authority to settle. Furthermore, the court held that the doctrine of collateral estoppel precluded Appellants from challenging what Mr. Dellinger had done. In this latest appeal, Appellants alleged that the circuit court erred in granting Mr. Dellingerâs motion to dismiss because the court failed to distinguish between the âactualâ and âapparentâ authority an attorney had to settle a case. After a thorough review of the record, the Supreme Court agreed, and held that the circuit court erred in granting Mr. Dellingerâs motion to dismiss. The Court remanded the case to the circuit court for further proceedings.