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Case Summaries

Legal Malpractice

The circuit court certifies to the Oklahoma Supreme Court the question of whether, under the Oklahoma Wrongful Death Statute, a cause of action existed for the wrongful death of a nonviable stillborn fetus as of September 1-2, 2003.

Following removal of a malpractice, negligence, and fraud suit brought in state court by creditors in a consolidated Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceeding against the accountants who performed work during the bankruptcy, a decision dismissing the matter is affirmed as: 1) the circuit court lacks jurisdiction to review the bankruptcy and district courts' decisions relating to alleged procedural defects in the removal process and mandatory or permissive abstention; and 2) the bankruptcy and district courts did not err with respect to claims relating to subject matter jurisdiction and the bankruptcy court's final adjudicative authority.

In legal malpractice action brought by Tennessee plaintiffs against New York defendants, summary judgment for defendants on ground that the case was untimely is affirmed over claim that since defendants were not subject to in personam jurisdiction in Tennessee, plaintiffs should be able to utilize Tennessee's tolling provision.

In a medical malpractice diversity action charging defendant with negligent diagnosis and treatment, a jury verdict in favor of the defendant is affirmed where the district court was within its discretion in admitting defendant's expert witness testimony since the testimony was based on sufficient facts or data. Since the court was within its discretion in admitting the testimony, the court also properly denied plaintiff's motion for a new trial.

In an action brought against a doctor and other defendants arising from circumstances in which an individual was rendered comatose during surgery, summary judgment for some defendants is affirmed where: 1) although, contrary to the court of appeals ruling, plaintiff presented competent summary judgment evidence of her continuous mental incapacity; nonetheless, 2) the Texas Constitution's open courts guarantee was not violated by the application of a statute of limitations in this case.

In a malpractice action arising from circumstances in which plaintiff, while a patient at defendant-hospital, sustained injuries as a result of a fall from his bed, summary judgment for defendant-hospital operator is reversed as: 1) a May 1 paper filing of the complaint and praecipe was sufficient to toll the statute of limitations, even though those documents were not (but should have been) e-Filed; and 2) the conclusion that the statute of limitations was tolled on May 1 could not be "undone" by giving effect to plaintiff's default admission that June 21 was the date that the first "legally cognizable" praecipe was filed.

In a legal malpractice case between non-diverse parties based on alleged errors by counsel in patent prosecution and patent litigation, denial of defendants' motion to remand the suit is affirmed as the patent infringement question was a necessary element of plaintiff's malpractice claim and raised a substantial, contested question of patent law that Congress intended for resolution in federal court.

Where determination of claim scope is a necessary, substantial, and contested element of a malpractice claim stemming from patent prosecution, there is "arising under" jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. section 1338. In a legal malpractice case based on alleged errors in patent prosecution, summary judgment for defendant-firm is affirmed where: 1) jurisdiction was proper under section 1338; and 2) the malpractice claim was barred by the Texas statute of limitations.

In a medical malpractice action, dismissal of plaintiff's complaint with prejudice is affirmed where the reviewing health-care professional's report, which was required by section 2-622 of the Code of Civil Procedure, had been written by a person not licensed to practice medicine.

In a bankruptcy appeal involving a dispute over one of the estate's assets, a legal malpractice lawsuit, a judgment dismissing appellant's appeal from the bankruptcy court as moot is reversed where: 1) the bankruptcy court erred in assuming mootness to adjudicate a motion to stay a decision awarding the asset to the defending lawyers, which if decided on the merits, would have controlled the mootness question; and 2) the district court simply compounded the mootness error in its decision.

In the context of California law stating that the statute of limitations for attorney malpractice claims arising from a given matter is tolled for the duration of the attorney's representation of the client in that matter, when an attorney leaves a firm and takes a client with him, the tolling in ongoing matters does not continue for claims against the former firm and partners.

Sanctions against an attorney for submissions made to the court are affirmed where the district court did not abuse its discretion in determining that the attorney's actions were disrespectful conduct disruptive of the judicial process and worthy of sanctions or in imposing a suspension from the practice of law before the district court for three months.

In suit alleging accounting malpractice, brought less than two years after the IRS withdrew its proposed tax deficiency assessment, judgment holding that the action was barred by the applicable statute of limitations is reversed where, since the audit process formally concluded when an agreement settling the issues in the audit with no tax deficiency was executed by plaintiffs and the IRS in August 2002, less than two years prior to the initiation of this action, the statute of limitations had not run.

In a medical negligence action, grant of defendant's motion to dismiss the complaint is affirmed where the trial court did not abuse its discretion in the dismissal because plaintiff failed to exercise reasonable diligence in obtaining service on defendant.

In a suit by a bankruptcy trustee for legal malpractice and breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing, summary judgment for defendants is reversed and remanded where: 1) the trustee was not barred by the debtor's bankruptcy discharge from asserting a legal malpractice claim that had accrued to debtor before commencement of his bankruptcy proceedings; and 2) the trustee stands in the shoes of the debtor, thus he was not a third-party claimant and his cause of action against the debtor's insurer for breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing was not limited by Louisiana law.

In an action brought raising claims of product liability, breach of warranty, and negligence claims alleging Kotex tampons led to an infection that caused a Texas resident's death, a decision finding that there was general jurisdiction over third-party defendant-hospital is reversed where the Louisiana hospital, either independently or through its parent corporation, lacked continuous and systematic contacts with Texas.

In a consolidated action involving a legal malpractice action brought by plaintiff and a breach of contract action brought by defendant to which plaintiff had filed a counterclaim, order granting defendant's motion to dismiss plaintiff's legal malpractice complaint and counterclaim in the defendant's breach of contract action is reversed and remanded where plaintiff was not judicially estopped from bringing the claims. (Opinion corrected 9/11/07)

In a legal malpractice action, dismissal of the complaint is reversed and the matter remanded where the court should not have considered documents outside of the complaint in ruling on defendant's motion to dismiss under section 2-615 of the Code of Civil Procedure. (Modified 9/7/07)

In the matter of a jury verdict of $7,775,668.02 resulting from a negligent credentialing count, the jury verdict is affirmed where negligent credentialing is a cause of action that is a progeny of hospital or institutional negligence. (Modified 9/20/07)

In a legal malpractice action arising from a real estate transaction, motion for summary judgement in favor of defendants based on a claim that the two-year statute of limitations on plaintiffs' legal malpractice action had expired is reversed and remanded where a cause of action for legal malpractice will not accrue prior to the entry of an adverse judgment, settlement, or dismissal of the underlying action in which plaintiff has become entangled due to the purportedly negligent advice of his attorney. (Modified 9/7/07)

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