Articles Posted in Professional Malpractice & Ethics

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Under the circumstances of this legal malpractice action, a court’s error of law was a concurrent, not a superseding, proximate cause, and therefore, recovery was not barred to the plaintiff client even where the defendant attorney was negligent for failing to prevent or mitigate the legal error. Plaintiff brought suit against Defendant, its former law firm, alleging that Defendant was negligent in failing to provide a French appellate court with evidence that the court deemed necessary for Plaintiff to prevail on a claim, which the court denied. The superior court granted summary judgment to Defendant and denied partial summary judgment to Plaintiff, concluding (1) the French court committed an error of law in requiring this evidence, and (2) even if Defendant were negligent in failing to provide the evidence to the court, Plaintiff could not recover damages for Defendant’s negligence because the court’s legal error was a superseding cause of the adverse action. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding that the trial judge erred in granting summary judgment to Defendant and denying partial summary judgment to Plaintiff. View "Kiribati Seafood Co., LLC v. Dechert LLP" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of a single justice of the county court dismissing Petitioner’s petition for relief in the nature of certiorari pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 249, 4. After Petitioner, a medical doctor, was terminated from his position, the Board of Registration in Medicine (board) commenced disciplinary proceedings against him. The board referred the matter to the Division of Administrative Law Appeals. Following an evidentiary hearing, a magistrate issued his recommended decision. Petitioner filed a complaint in the nature of petition for a writ of certiorari arguing, inter alia, that his due process rights had been violated during the course of the board proceedings. The single justice dismissed the petition without a hearing. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the single justice did not err or otherwise abuse his discretion in dismissing the petition. View "Padmanabhan v. Board of Registration in Medicine" on Justia Law

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Luis Alicea pleaded guilty to a firearm offense and was sentenced to three and one-half years' incarceration. Alicea later filed suit in federal court against his former defense counsel, Lawrence McGuire, alleging that McGuire's conduct resulted in Alicea's serving an illegal sentence. The district court judge granted summary judgment for McGuire. While the federal case was pending, Alicea filed an action in the superior court against the Commonwealth as McGuire's employer, asserting claims of malpractice and negligent infliction of emotional distress. Alicea's claims were premised on the allegation that McGuire had caused Alicea to serve an illegal sentence. The superior court granted summary judgment for the Commonwealth, concluding that the judgment entered in the federal action precluded Alicea from litigating the issue of his purported illegal sentence. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because the central issue of Alicea's claims in the superior court was decided in the federal action, application of the doctrine of issue preclusion prevented Alicea from relitigating the issue. View "Alicea v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff retained Law Firm and its attorneys (collectively, Law Firm) to accomplish Plaintiff's foreclosure on a mortgage to certain property. A year after the foreclosure sale, while Law Firm was representing Plaintiff in negotiations for the sale of the foreclosed property, another law firm retained by Plaintiff sent a notice of claim to Law Firm alleging that Law Firm breached its obligations to Plaintiff by failing to inform Plaintiff of outstanding liens on the foreclosed property. After Law Firm concluded its representation of Plaintiff, Plaintiff filed an action against Law Firm, alleging, inter alia, legal malpractice and negligent misrepresentation. Law Firm moved for a protective order to preserve, among other things, the confidentiality of allegedly privileged communications to Law Firm's in-house counsel regarding Law Firm's reply to the notice of claim. The judge allowed the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the judge correctly allowed Law Firm to invoke the attorney-client privilege to preserve the confidentiality of the communications. View "RFF Family P'ship v. Burns & Levinson, LLP" on Justia Law

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After allegations of professional misconduct, the Board of Registration of Social Workers suspended Sandra Clark's license to practice as a licensed independent clinical social worker for five years. A single justice of the Supreme Court affirmed the Board's order. The Supreme Court affirmed the single justice's judgment, holding that the decision of the justice correctly rejected Clark's claims of error, as (1) Clark failed to demonstrate that the Board's decision to suspend her license was not supported by substantial evidence, or that it was arbitrary or capricious or based on any error of law; and (2) the Board's proceedings did not violate Clark's due process rights. View "Clark v. Bd. of Registration of Social Workers" on Justia Law

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In 1990 McCarthy bought land at a mortgage foreclosure sale conducted by defendant, Seamen's, the mortgage holder. The advertisement described the parcel as "at the end of the paved portion of Higgins Hollow Road, Truro." McCarthy obtained a mortgage from Seamen's and retained defendant, Snow, an attorney. Before closing, Snow and issued to Seamen's a certificate of title. McCarthy received a copy. The foreclosure deed and mortgage were recorded. McCarthy purchased the property under the belief that it was in a specific location; it is actually another parcel. Following a land court action concerning a boundary dispute with a neighbor, McCarthy sued those involved in her purchase. During discovery, defendants sought, from the land court action, time sheets, correspondence between or among McCarthy and her attorneys, land surveyors, title abstractors, and title examiners; and all documents concerning the parcels. The Massachusetts Supreme Court held that the defendants did not establish entitlement to discovery of communications protected by attorney-client privilege under a theory of at issue waiver, but may discover the other information that qualifies as "fact" work product under Mass. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(3), because they have shown substantial need for the material and cannot without undue hardship obtain it from another source. View "McCarthy v. Slade Assocs., Inc." on Justia Law

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This case arose when the Board issued a statement of allegations against plaintiff, alleging that her ability to practice medicine had become impaired by "mental instability." At issue was whether the order of the Board denying plaintiff's petition to stay the indefinite suspension of her medical license could be reviewed by a single justice of the court pursuant to G.L.c. 112, section 64, or whether the order must be reviewed in the Superior Court pursuant to G.L.c. 30A, section 14. The court concluded that neither statute applied, but that plaintiff could nonetheless obtain review before a single justice under the certiorari statute, G.L.c. 249, section 4. View "Hoffer v. Board of Registration in Medicine" on Justia Law

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This was an action for judicial review of a final decision and order of the board suspending Stephen Chadwick's license to practice dentistry in Massachusetts. Because the court agreed that the United States Supreme Court's decision in Gade v. National Solid Wastes Mgt. Ass'n applied to the disciplinary proceeding, the court concluded that, while the board could mandate compliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), 29 U.S.C. 651 et seq., standards in dental practices and sanction dentists for professional misconduct after OSHA determined that a violation had occurred, the board could not interpret, apply, and enforce OSHA standards regarding workplace safety on its own record. The court further concluded that the preemptive effect of OSHA articulated in Gade also barred the board from sanctioning Chadwick based on conduct it found to be violative of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines and department regulations, where such action constituted the direct and substantial regulation of occupational safety and health issues for which Federal OSHA standards were in effect. The court further concluded that the board's one finding unrelated to a formal OSHA standard was supported by substantial evidence View "Chadwick v. Board of Registration in Dentistry" on Justia Law

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Vernon S. Kellogg sought review of a memorandum and judgment of a single justice of the court affirming a decision and order of the Board of Registration in Medicine (board) that revoked Kellogg's license to practice medicine. Kellogg asserted that various aspects of the board's proceedings violated his Federal and State constitutional rights and that the requirement that he obtain malpractice insurance violated the contracts clause of art. I, section 10, of the United States Constitution, and that the board's regulatory authority violated the principle of the separation of powers articulated in art. 30 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights. Having reviewed the single justice's thorough memorandum and judgment in which he addressed each of Kellogg's claims of errors, the court was satisfied that there was nothing that warranted further consideration. Here, Kellogg failed to support his claims of error with sufficient legal argument or factual detail, and failed to cite to sufficient supporting authority. As both a legal and practical matter, Kellogg's submissions provided an insufficient basis for the court to reasonably consider his claims. Accordingly, judgment was affirmed. View "Kellogg v. Board of Registration in Medicine" on Justia Law

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The Real Estate Bar Association of Massachusettes ("REBA") claimed that certain activities undertaken by the National Real Estate Information Services ("NREIS") constituted an unauthorized practice of law. At issue was whether NREIS's activities, either in whole or in part, based on the record and as described in the parties' filings, constituted the unauthorized practice of law in violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 221, section 46 et seq. Also at issue was whether NREIS's activities, in contracting with Massachusetts attorneys to attend real estate closings, violated Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 221, section 46 et seq. The court held that certain of the real estate settlement activities undertaken by NREIS did not constitute the unauthorized practice of law but the court could not determine based on the record whether the other described settlement activities did. The court also held that the closing or settlement of the types of real estate transactions described in the record required not only the presence but the substantive participation of an attorney on behalf of the mortgage lender and that certain services connected with real property conveyances constituted the practice of law.