Professional Negligence Final Arbitration Award
Jonathan Vine and Sheena Smith of CSK’s West Palm Beach office recently received a Final Arbitration Award in favor of CSK’s clients, a lawyer and her firm, in a hotly contested breach of fiduciary duty, professional negligence and constructive fraud action.
The Plaintiffs were the daughters of a wealthy real estate developer (the Father) as well as the directors and/or officers of several of their Father’s companies. Through a series of amendments to the Father’s trust documents and entities under the facade of protecting their Father from tax penalties and assisting him to become a U.S. resident, the Plaintiffs took control of the Father’s trusts and assets worth approximately $30 million. When the Father discovered the Plaintiffs’ actions, the Father filed a lawsuit against the Plaintiffs to undue the transfers.
In response, the Plaintiffs sued the Father’s long-time corporate and real estate attorney and her law firm (the Defendants), asserting that they (the Plaintiffs) had an individual attorney-client relationship with Defendants. Specifically, Plaintiffs alleged that the Defendants used confidential and privileged information provided by the Plaintiffs to aid the Father with his lawsuit against the Plaintiffs to undo the trust amendments to the detriment of the Plaintiffs. Despite Plaintiffs’ insistence that they had developed an attorney-client relationship with Defendants in their individual capacity as well as a result of their position(s) as officers and/or directors of their Father’s companies, Defendants maintained that their only clients were the Father and his companies.
The matter went to arbitration after a length discovery process. The Arbitrator found in favor of Defendants and entered a Final Arbitration Award against Plaintiffs on their claims of breach of fiduciary duty, professional negligence, and constructive fraud.
Trip and Fall Trial Win
Sherry Schwartz and David Weiger, Jr. obtained a complete defense verdict following a 6 day trial in Hendry County.
The case involved a trip and fall at a restaurant owned by the insured. Plaintiff alleged the curb at the entrance was hidden and not code compliant. As a result of the fall, she had severe shoulder and neck injuries requiring 5 surgeries and 733,000 in past medical bills. Total economics, not including pain and suffering was 2.1 million.
Although the defense conceded the curb was not compliant with the current code, the old code applied, and regardless of code issues, the sole cause of the accident was due to Plaintiff not being reasonably careful under the circumstances; this included carrying heavy items, not carrying an umbrella, wearing dark sunglasses in the rain, and related unsafe practices. Although causation was mostly uncontested, the defense was able to show via Facebook photos post fall, and medical records pre-fall, that plaintiff was making false claims both with regard to her current condition and pre-existing medical conditions that likely contributed to her not being able to see the curb – this included extensive documentation of episodes of vertigo, blurry vision, and dizziness. The jury was out in less than 2 hours.
David Weiger, Jr.
Legal Malpractice Summary Judgment Win
Jonathan Vine and Keisha Hall of CSK’s West Palm Beach office were recently successful in defending a Law Firm in a highly litigious Legal Malpractice matter. In the underlying matter, our clients, an attorney and Law Firm, were retained by Plaintiffs, a medical provider, to dispute the findings and overpayment of an Agency’s Medicaid audit. The overpayment amount along with fines and fees resulted in a demand for Medicaid reimbursement of $970,504.27. The Plaintiffs’ Petition for a Hearing to dispute the Medicaid findings and overpayment was denied by the Agency as untimely filed. Specifically, the Agency claimed the Petition was not timely received because Defendants failed to use either of the filing methods set forth in the Agency’s Final Audit Report.
As a part of the defense, we argued that the Petition was timely, where two Agency attorneys received the Petition via email. We further argued the Abandonment Doctrine and asserted that Plaintiffs abandoned the right to appeal once the Agency denied the Petition. Significantly, Plaintiffs had retained new counsel who could also have filed an appeal but abandoned their right to file the same. We further argued that the District Court would have either found that the Petition was timely received or use the Doctrine of Equitable Tolling to reverse the Agency’s decision where there was substantial compliance with the Agency’s filing requirements.
The Court in this matter heard arguments on the dispositive issue, addressing Plaintiffs’ Motion on whether an appeal would have likely been successful. The Court agreed with Defendants’ position and ruled that Plaintiffs had abandoned their right to appeal and therefore precluded any claim for legal malpractice. The Court ruled that the Agency pulled a “gotcha,” with its denial of the Petition where there was actual/substantial compliance. The Court concluded that an appeal of the Agency’s decision to deny Plaintiffs an administrative hearing would likely have been successful, and further found that “Plaintiffs therefore abandoned this claim for legal malpractice by choosing not to take an appeal.”
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Jonathan Vine is a partner with the firm’s West Palm Beach Office and practices in the areas of Commercial Litigation, Labor and Employment Law, Legal and Accounting Malpractice, Insurance Agent/Broker Errors & Omissions, Directors and[...] Read more
Sheena Smith is an associate in the firm’s West Palm Beach office. She practices in the areas of Legal Malpractice, Labor and Employment Law, Commercial Litigation, Banking and Financial, and Homeowners’ Association and Condominium Law.[...] Read more
Sherry Schwartz is a partner in the firm’s West Palm Beach Office. She received her Bachelors of Science, with Highest Honors from the University of Florida, followed by her Juris Doctor Degree from the University[...] Read more
David Weiger, Jr. is an associate in the firm's West Palm Beach office. His areas of practice include nursing home defense, premise liability, and general civil litigation. David graduated from Auburn University with a Bachelor[...] Read more
Keisha Hall is an associate in the firm’s West Palm Beach office. She practices in the areas of banking and financial, business/commercial law, civil rights law, class action, commercial litigation, country club, condominium and homeowners'[...] Read more