Articles Posted in Professional Malpractice & Ethics

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After the Oklahoma Board of Medical Licensure and Supervision (Board) began investigating plaintiff-appellant, Dr. Steven Anagnost, he filed a lawsuit against several doctors and their professional companies (collectively, defendants).Anagnost alleged negligence, abuse of process, tortious interference with business relations, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and defamation. When Anagnost discovered additional information from the Board's file, he filed an amended petition asserting additional claims against the Board and certain Board members. The amended petition was filed after the newly enacted Oklahoma Citizens Participation Act, (the OCPA) became effective. The defendants sought dismissal of the lawsuit pursuant to the new dismissal provisions of the OCPA. The trial court applied the OCPA, and dismissed the negligence claims against the defendants, but denied all other requested relief. The defendants appealed and the Court of Civil Appeals affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded with directions. The Oklahoma Supreme Court granted certiorari to address the dispositive issue of whether the OCPA could be applied retroactively. The Court held that it could not. View "Anagnost v. Tomecek" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs-appellees Jackie and Marcia Ellison, along with Richard M. Healy, P.C., Jayne Jarnigan Robertson, P.C., and Michael J. Blascheke, P.C., sued defendants-appellants, Michael D. Campbell and M.D. Campbell & Associates, L.P., for breach of contract. Plaintiffs alleged that Campbell failed to render a defensible expert opinion in underlying litigation in Canadian County, and subsequently abandoned the task for which he was hired. Campbell counterclaimed for "uncompensated professional services." A jury returned a verdict in plaintiffs' favor. Based on the jury's verdict, the trial court entered judgment for the plaintiffs for $408,748.68, plus statutory interest. Campbell filed a motion for new trial or, in the alternative, a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict. After hearing argument, the trial court overruled the motions and Campbell appealed. The Court of Civil Appeals reversed, finding that the breach of contract cause of action failed because plaintiffs did not prove their case by presenting an expert witness. Upon review, the Supreme Court found that in this case the expert witness indicted his own performance in the underlying matter: "Supporting testimony made it clear that Campbell did not produce a document which accurately represented the state of the groundwater underlying the Ellisons' property or the source of its pollution. Any lay person could consider the testimony presented and conclude that the Ellisons did not receive the services for which they contracted. The expert witness's testimony was such that any reasonable juror might question his candidness." Under these unique facts, it was unnecessary for plaintiffs to rely upon expert testimony to prevail in their breach of contract claim. View "Ellison v. Campbell" on Justia Law

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Tracy Stanfield was injured in 1992. A settlement relating to his injuries resulted in an annuity providing periodic payments to Stanfield from Metropolitan Life Insurance Company (MetLife). Stanfield assigned certain annuity payments, and the assignee in turn assigned them to J. G. Wentworth S.S.C. Limited Partnership (Wentworth). Stanfield later caused MetLife to ignore the assignments to Wentworth. Wentworth filed an action in a Pennsylvania state court and obtained a judgment against Stanfield. Wentworth then filed a motion for a judgment against MetLife for the same amount. A Pennsylvania court granted the motion. Soon thereafter, Stanfield's mother Mildred filed a petition in an Oklahoma district court to be appointed guardian of her son's estate. MetLife filed an interpleader action in a Pennsylvania federal district court and named Wentworth and Mildred in her capacity as guardian of her son's estate as defendants. Mildred asked attorney Loyde Warren to accept service of process on her behalf, and he agreed. Stanfield signed Warren's contingency fee agreement; Warren then engaged local counsel in Pennsylvania. At the settlement conference the parties agreed that Wentworth's judgment would be withdrawn; payments would be paid from Stanfield's annuity payments to Wentworth; the annuity assignment was rescinded; and future annuity payments from MetLife to Stanfield, as guardian, would be made payable in care of Warren. In 2009, Warren filed a motion in the open and continuing guardianship case before the Oklahoma district court for approval of both the 2001 contract for legal representation and the payment of legal fees made pursuant to that contract. Mildred objected and among her arguments, she maintained that a contingency fee for successfully defending a client from a judgment was improper, and that the fee agreement was unenforceable because it had not been approved by the guardianship court. The district court denied Warren's motion, "[b]ecause the application was not filed prior to payment of the fee and was not filed until nearly eight years after the contract was executed." The Court of Civil Appeals affirmed, and Warren appealed. Upon review, the Supreme Court held that (1) the district court possessed jurisdiction to adjudicate a guardianship proceeding a motion seeking court approval of a lawyer's contingent fee contract; (2) the guardian's failure to obtain court approval of a contingent fee agreement prior to payment pursuant to that agreement is not, by itself, a legally sufficient reason for a court to deny a motion to approve the agreement; and (3) the mere passage of time between creation of a contingent fee agreement and when it is presented to a court for approval in an open and continuing guardianship proceeding is not a legally sufficient reason to deny approval of that agreement. View "In the matter of the Guardianship of Stanfield" on Justia Law

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The trial court granted summary judgment to Defendants-Appellees Seymour Law Firm, R. Thomas Seymour and Scott A. Graham, based on the legal theory that its failure to enforce an attorney's lien within one year after it became aware of a settlement precluded Plaintiff-Appellant Gina Cowley from enforcing a contract she held with co-counsel. Specifically, the issue before the Supreme Court was whether the expiration of the lien prohibited Plaintiff's lawyer from suing her co-counsel for breach of contract over the distribution of attorney fees from the settlement of the underlying case. Upon review, the Court held that the applicable one-year statute of limitations did not preclude a lawsuit arising over a contract dispute between Plaintiff's lawyers. The case was reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Cowley v. Seymour Law Firm" on Justia Law