Articles Posted in Professional Malpractice & Ethics

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Plaintiff-appellee J.B. was injured when certified registered nurse anesthetist (“CRNA”) Paul Serdula sexually assaulted her in a surgical suite in the dental practice of defendant-appellant Goldstein, Garber and Salama, LLC (GGS). Serdula was hired by GGS as an independent contractor through anesthesia staffing agency Certified Anesthesia Providers; in accordance with its standard practice, that agency conducted an independent credentialing process on Serdula prior to placing him in any medical or dental facilities. The Georgia Supreme Court granted certiorari to the Court of Appeals to determine whether the Court of Appeals erred in concluding that a reasonable jury could find that a third party’s sexual molestation of J.B. was an act foreseeable by GGS, whether the appellate court erred in affirming the trial court’s denial of GGS’s motion for a directed verdict on the issue of negligence per se, and whether GGS waived any objection to the jury verdict’s apportionment of fault. Finding that appellate court misinterpreted OCGA 43-11-21.1, GGS’s motion for a directed verdict should have been granted. View "Goldstein, Garber & Salama, LLC v. J.B." on Justia Law

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The Georgia Supreme Court granted certiorari to the Court of Appeals in “Fisher v. Gala,” (754 SE2d 160 (2014)) to determine if that the appellate court properly held that, in a professional malpractice action, when a plaintiff files a complaint accompanied by an affidavit from a person not competent to testify as an expert in the action, OCGA 9-11-9.1 (e) permits the plaintiff to cure this defect by filing an amended complaint with the affidavit of a second, competent expert. Finding that the Court of Appeals was correct in holding that the pleading could be so amended, the Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals’ judgment. View "Gala v. Fisher" on Justia Law

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In March 2011, the Chief Judge of the Clayton Judicial Circuit, at the request of the Clayton County District Attorney, issued an order authorizing the impaneling of a special purpose grand jury to investigate certain alleged public corruption. The special purpose grand jury issued subpoenas to various witnesses, including appellee John Lampl, who testified before it in June 2011. In July 2011, the special purpose grand jury returned a 16-count bill of indictment against Lampl on charges of conspiracy in restraint of free and open competition, false statements and writings, and perjury. The indictment was subsequently nolle prossed in the aftermath of the Court of Appeals’ holding in "Kenerly v. Georgia," (715 SE2d 688) (2011)), that the authority of a special purpose grand jury is limited to conducting investigations and does not include the power to issue indictments. Shortly thereafter, in September 2011, Lampl was indicted by a regular Clayton County grand jury on eight counts, including one perjury count, similar to those charged in the special purpose grand jury’s initial indictment. The conspiracy and false statements counts all pertain to alleged conduct by Lampl in his capacity as City Manager for the City of Morrow, in connection with a City real estate development project known as "Olde Towne Morrow." The Georgia Supreme Court granted the State’s petition for a writ of certiorari in this case to determine whether the Court of Appeals properly affirmed the superior court’s order dismissing a particular count of the indictment and suppressing statements made by the defendant before the special purpose grand jury. While the Supreme Court agreed with the superior court’s conclusion that the special purpose grand jury exceeded the scope of its authority in its investigation, the Court held that the relief granted was improper. The Court therefore reversed. View "Georgia v. Lampl" on Justia Law

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The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia certified a question of Georgia law to the Georgia Supreme Court. As the receiver of the Buckhead Community Bank, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation sued nine former officers and directors of the bank, alleging that they were negligent with respect to the making of loans, which, according to the FDIC, led the bank, to suffer nearly $22 million in losses. The defendants moved to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that the business judgment rule relieved officers and directors of any liability for ordinary negligence. The FDIC responded that such a business judgment rule is no part of the common law in Georgia, and even if it were, it did not apply to bank officers and directors, insofar as the statutory law in Georgia explicitly requires bank officers and directors to exercise ordinary diligence and care. Unable to "discern clear and controlling precedent the federal district court asked: "[d]oes the business judgment rule in Georgia preclude as a matter of law a claim for ordinary negligence against the officers and directors of a bank in a lawsuit brought by the FDIC as receiver for the bank?" The Georgia Court answered that question in the negative. View "Fed. Deposit Ins. Corp. v. Loudermilk" on Justia Law

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Appellant St. Simon's Waterfront, LLC ("SSW") sued its former law firm, Appellee Hunter, Maclean, Exley & Dunn, P.C. ("Hunter Maclean"), over the firm's representation in a commercial real estate venture. During the litigation, SSW sought production of communications between Hunter Maclean attorneys and the firm's in-house general counsel, which took place during the firm's ongoing representation of SSW, in anticipation of potential malpractice claims by SSW. Hunter Maclean asserted that the materials were protected from disclosure by the attorney-client privilege and work product doctrine, but the trial court disagreed and ordered their production. On appeal, the Court of Appeals vacated the trial court's order and remanded for further consideration. Upon review, the Supreme Court held that the same basic analysis that is conducted to assess privilege and work product in every other variation of the attorney-client relationship should also be applied to the law firm in-house counsel situation. The Court vacated the judgment of the Court of Appeals. View "St. Simons Waterfront, LLC v. Hunter, Maclean, Exely & Dunn, P.C." on Justia Law

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In 2007, Appellant Derick Villanueva acted as the closing attorney for a mortgage-refinance transaction in which Homecomings Financial, LLC served as the lender supplying funds to pay off earlier mortgages on the secured property. Appellee First American Title Insurance Company issued title insurance on the transaction. Pursuant to Villanueva’s instructions, Homecomings wired funds into a specified escrow account. However, the funds were not used to pay off the earlier mortgages; instead, the funds were withdrawn and the account closed by a person not a lawyer. First American paid off the earlier mortgages and, pursuant to its closing protection letter to Homecomings, became "subrogated to all rights and remedies [Homecomings] would have had against any person or property…." First American then filed this lawsuit against appellants, the estate of another attorney, the escrow account, the non-lawyer who withdrew the funds from the escrow account, and others, seeking damages for legal malpractice and breach of a contract with Homecomings. The trial court denied summary judgment to appellants. The issue before the Supreme Court was whether a legal malpractice claims were not per se unassignable. After studying the issue, the Court agreed with the appellate court that legal malpractice claims are not per se unassignable. View "Villanueva v. First American Title Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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After receiving complaints about the alleged misconduct of Catoosa County Magistrate Court Judge Anthony Peters, the Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC) initiated an investigation and subsequently filed formal charges to have Judge Peters permanently removed from his position as a judge and barred from ever holding or seeking elected or appointed judicial office in the State of Georgia. The court agreed with the recommendation of the JQC where Judge Peters, among other things, obtained and consumed marijuana at least once a week from March to May of 2010; inappropriately used his judicial office to advance the personal interests of a family member; pointed a firearm at himself and indicated to another Magistrate Judge that he was not afraid to die; appeared on a local cable television show, made derogatory remarks about the Chief Magistrate Judge, publicly disclosed that he had filed a complaint against the Chief Magistrate Judge, and displayed a photograph of an individual and identified the individual by name as a confidential informant; made a phone call to a local cable television show after initially trying to disguise his voice with multiple foreign accents and made certain comments; and refused to work certain hours.