by
Fuery, her friends Sciortino and Tomaskovic, and Chicago police officer Szura were involved in an altercation on the side of the road. The three women were arrested for battery of a police officer; each was acquitted. The women sued the City and Officer Szura under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and 1985. At trial, the defendants objected to various testimony as violating the court’s rulings on motions in limine, moved for a mistrial, and requested dismissal of all claims and attorneys’ fees as a sanction. The judge stated, “[t]here are plenty of options once the trial is concluded to deal with the misconduct … I am not letting it go.” The jury awarded Tomaskovic $260,000 against Szura on her excessive force claim, finding that Szura was acting within the scope of his employment, but found in favor of the defendants on all other claims. The court entered judgment in favor of the City and Szura on all claims but denied the claims for attorneys’ fees. The court found misconduct by plaintiffs’ attorney and that “plaintiffs actively participated.” The Seventh Circuit affirmed, stating that it was apparent, “even from the two-dimensional record, the judge’s patience being tried.” District courts “possess certain inherent powers, not conferred by rule or statute, to manage their own affairs so as to achieve the orderly and expeditious disposition of cases. That authority includes the ability to fashion an appropriate sanction for conduct which abuses the judicial process.” View "Fuery v. City of Chicago" on Justia Law

by
In a previous appeal, the Eighth Circuit held that portions of Minnesota's Next Generation Energy Act were unconstitutional in North Dakota v. Heydinger, 825 F.3d 912 (8th Cir. 2016). The State appealed the district court's determination on remand that plaintiffs were entitled to attorney's fees and award of $1,310,088 in fees and costs. The court affirmed the district court's order without opinion. View "North Dakota v. Lange" on Justia Law

by
Richard Fournier and Wendy Crossland (collectively, the Fourniers) filed an action (the Fournier case) against Monster Energy Company (Monster) and a related defendant. The Fourniers were represented by the R. Rex Parris Law Firm (Parris) and Bruce Schechter (collectively the Attorneys). In 2015, the Fourniers and Monster entered into an agreement to settle the Fournier case. The parties agreed to keep the terms of the settlement confidential. Brenda Craig was a reporter for Lawyersandsettlements.com. Lawyersandsettlements.com “provide[s] a source of information about [readers’] legal rights” and also “help[s] lawyers reach out to the clients they seek.” Shortly after the Fournier case settled, Craig interviewed Schechter about cases his office was handling that involved energy drinks. In general, Schechter discussed other cases against Monster, as well as what he viewed as the negative health effects of Monster’s products. Lawyersandsettlements.com published an online article that included statements Schechter told Craig. Lawyersandsettlements.com sent the leads that it generated to attorneys who had signed up to be “advertisers.” It had “forwarded hundreds of thousands of requests for legal representation directly to lawyers.” One employee of Lawyersandsettlements.com was also a non-lawyer employee of Parris. Monster filed this action against the Attorneys, asserting causes of action for: (1) breach of contract, (2) breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, (3) unjust enrichment, and (4) promissory estoppel. The Attorneys filed a special motion to strike under Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16 (SLAPP motion), arguing, among other things, that Monster could not show a probability of prevailing on its breach of contract claim because they were not parties to the settlement agreement. In opposition, Monster argued, among other things: (1) Schechter’s statements were commercial speech and therefore unprotected, and (2) the Attorneys were “[c]learly” bound by the settlement agreement. The trial court denied the motion with respect to the breach of contact cause of action but granted it with respect to the other causes of action. When a settlement agreement provides that plaintiffs and their counsel agree to keep the terms of the agreement confidential, and plaintiffs' counsel signs the agreement under the words "approved as to form and content," the Court of Appeal held plaintiffs' counsel could not be liable to defendant for breach of the confidentiality provision. View "Monster Energy Co. v. Schechter" on Justia Law

by
The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court's award of sanctions against plaintiff and his attorneys in an action against Pro Transport and its owners, seeking to recover unpaid wages under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The court held that Slater v. U.S. Steel Corp., 871 F.3d 1174 (11th Cir. 2017) (en banc), made clear that plaintiff and his attorneys did not act in bad faith or took legal action that had no reasonable chance of success in litigating the FLSA claim. Therefore, the district court abused its discretion by imposing sanctions. View "Antonio Silva v. Pro Transport, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of petitioner in an action under the International Child Abduction Remedies Act to recover fees and costs. The court held that respondent failed to establish under the Act that an award of necessary expenses could be clearly inappropriate. In this case, the record developed on the merits of the wrongful removal petition was replete with evidence contradicting respondent's good faith argument. Therefore, the court affirmed the award of attorney fees, costs and expenses in the total amount of $89,490.26. View "Rath v. Marcoski" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court held that the Honorable Ryan D. Johanningsmeier, Judge of the Knox Superior Court 2, engaged in judicial misconduct by his conduct in, and his failure to recuse from, a friend’s traffic-infraction case. Accordingly, the Court reprimanded Judge Johanningsmeier. The Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications charged that Judge Johanningsmeier’s actions violated six provisions of the Code of Judicial Conduct. The parties agreed that the appropriate sanction under the circumstances was a public reprimand plus assessing costs of the proceeding against the judge. The Supreme Court agreed and reprimanded Judge Johanningsmeier, assessing costs of the proceeding against the judge. View "In re Honorable Ryan D. Johanningsmeier" on Justia Law

by
Defendants contracted to purchase a Lafayette home, waived contingencies, discovered undisclosed matters, terminated the contract, and sought to recover their $116,220 deposit, hiring the MMB law firm. Their claims went to arbitration. MMB informed defendants that they owed $431,141.92 in legal fees, providing a draft settlement agreement for a discounted payment of $331,000 with an affirmative representation that the parties each had received independent counsel. Defendant sent MMB revisions, stating that “Clients further contend that Law Firm failed to adhere to the Clients’ direction on one or more occasions and further question the Law Firm’s handling, strategy and representation.” The arbitrator awarded the seller $116,250 on his breach of contract claim, and $75,000 in attorney fees and costs. Defendants executed the Agreement. agreeing to pay MMB $150,000. The Agreement contains mutual general releases. waiving all claims “whether now known or unknown.” MMB’s assignee, SCJLW, sued. Defendants asserted the agreement was unenforceable for lack of consideration because MMB committed legal malpractice; that their signatures were fraudulently induced; and that MMB failed to disclose its malpractice exposure in violation of their ethical duties. They admitted not making payments under the Agreement. The trial court entered judgment for $150,000, plus $81,460.20 in interest. The court of appeal affirmed. Plaintiff set forth a prima facie case for breach of contract; defendants failed to make even a prima facie case for lack of consideration. View "Property Cal. SCJLW One Corp. v. Leamy" on Justia Law

by
The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment confirming an arbitrator's award of attorney's fees and expenses to Beumer. The court held that the arbitrator acted within the scope of his authority and did not violate the arbitration agreement's provision when he determined that attorneys' fees were "costs" and not "loss" under Missouri law. Therefore, these costs were not subject to the limitation of liability. The court held that ProEnergy failed to demonstrate grounds to vacate the arbitration award under 9 U.S.C. 10, and denied Beumer's motion for sanctions. View "Beumer Corp. v. ProEnergy Services, LLC" on Justia Law

by
As a high school student in North Dakota, Dagny Knutson was an internationally ranked swimmer. She committed to Auburn University because one of its coaches, Paul Yetter. In March 2010, Mark Schubert, USA Swimming’s head coach, told Knutson that Yetter was leaving Auburn University. Schubert advised Knutson to swim professionally rather than at Auburn or another university. He orally promised her support to train at a “Center for Excellence” formed by USA Swimming in Fullerton, California, including room, board, tuition, and a stipend until she earned her degree. At Schubert’s suggestion, Knutson retained a sports agent, and shortly thereafter, she turned professional, accepted prize money, and signed an endorsement agreement. A few months after Knutson moved to Fullerton, Schubert’s employment was terminated by USA Swimming. Schubert told Knutson not to worry, and assured her that USA Swimming would keep the promises he had made to her. However, Knutson became concerned because she was not receiving any money from USA Swimming. Knutson retained attorney Foster to represent her in an attempt to get USA Swimming to honor the oral agreement made by Schubert. Foster did not disclose to Knutson his close personal ties to the aquatics world, or that he had long-time relationships with USA Swimming, and other swimming organizations. Knutson testified that Foster never told her that he represented Schubert or that he declined to represent Schubert against USA Swimming because he felt there was a conflict of interest due to his relationships with people within USA Swimming. In September 2014, Knutson sued Foster for fraudulent concealment and breach of fiduciary duty. After a three-week trial, the jury found in favor of Knutson and awarded her economic and noneconomic damages. The trial court granted Foster’s motion for a new trial on the grounds that Knutson did not prove Foster’s conduct was the cause of Knutson’s damages and that Knutson had failed to offer substantial evidence of her emotional distress damages. The Court of Appeal reversed and reinstated the jury's verdict because the motion for a new trial was granted on erroneous legal theories. The Court held: (1) claims of fraudulent concealment and intentional breach of fiduciary duty by a client against his or her attorney are subject to the substantial factor causation standard, not the “but for” or “trial within a trial” causation standard employed in cases of legal malpractice based on negligence; and (2) where the plaintiff’s emotional distress consisted of anxiety, shame, a sense of betrayal, and a continuing impact on personal relationships, the testimony of the plaintiff alone was sufficient to support emotional distress damages. View "Knutson v. Foster" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff Cheryl Moore, M.D. appealed a superior court order granting summary judgment to defendants attorney Charles Grau and Upton Hatfield, LLP, on plaintiff’s claims for legal malpractice, violation of the New Hampshire Consumer Protection Act, and entitlement to an accounting and forfeiture of fees. Plaintiff was a member of Young & Novis, P.A. (Y&N), along with her partner, Dr. Glenn Littell. Y&N provided pathology services to the intervenor, Wentworth-Douglass Hospital (WDH), until WDH elected to terminate Y&N’s services. Prior to the termination, an attorney acting on Y&N’s behalf solicited trial counsel for a potential wrongful termination suit against WDH. Plaintiff retained Grau and his firm. On the date for Y&N’s contract was terminated, plaintiff allegedly permitted her husband, Dr. Thomas Moore, to access Y&N computers connected to WDH’s network. Plaintiff’s husband and Littell then downloaded confidential documents and destroyed certain electronic data. WDH sued plaintiff, her husband, and Littell in federal district court. Years later, the parties reached a tentative settlement. During negotiations preceding the tentative settlement, the hospital defendants were jointly represented by Grau and Upton Hatfield. In mid- August, however, plaintiff hired a separate attorney, Peter Callaghan, to represent her in finalizing the settlement. Plaintiff ultimately sued Grau and the firm for malpractice; the trial court granted summary judgment, concluding plaintiff’s claims against defendants “originate[d] or [grew] out of or flow from her relationship with WDH,” and, therefore, fell within the prohibition of Paragraph 4 of the Settlement Agreement. Having determined that the Settlement Agreement barred the suit, the court found it unnecessary to address the defendants’ remaining arguments or to decide a pending motion to quash. Plaintiff unsuccessfully moved for reconsideration. The New Hampshire Supreme Court determined the settlement agreement, by its terms, did not cover plaintiff's malpractice claims against Grau or the firm. Therefore, summary judgment was improperly granted, and the Court reversed. View "Moore v. Grau" on Justia Law