Articles Posted in Professional Malpractice & Ethics

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Tower Homes, LLC retained William Heaton and his law firm (collectively, Heaton) for legal guidance in developing a residential common ownership project. The project eventually failed, and Tower Homes entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The plan of reorganization and confirmation order stated that the trustee and bankruptcy estate retained all legal claims. The trustee subsequently entered into a stipulation with a group of creditors (collectively, the Creditors) permitting the Creditors to pursue any legal malpractice claims in the Tower Homes’ name. The bankruptcy court then entered an order authorizing the trustee to permit the Creditors to pursue Tower Homes’ legal malpractice claim in Tower Homes’ name. The Creditors subsequently filed a legal malpractice lawsuit against Heaton, naming Tower Homes as plaintiff. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Heaton, concluding that the stipulation and order constituted an impermissible assignment of a legal malpractice claim to the Creditors. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the stipulation and order constituted an assignment, which is prohibited under Nevada law; and (2) the Creditors may bring a debtor’s legal malpractice claim pursuant to 11 U.S.C. 1123(b)(3)(B) when certain conditions are met, but those conditions were not met in this case. View "Tower Homes, LLC v. Heaton" on Justia Law

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Jorgenson & Koka, LLP (J&K) filed this professional negligence action against the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) and real parties in interest PWREO Eastern and St. Rose LLC (collectively, PWREO) and the City of Henderson. J&K, which leased a portion of a shopping center owned by PWREO, alleging that water entered its premises on two separate occasions and that NDOT failed to prevent the flooding. PWREO filed a cross-claim against NDOT and the City. NDOT moved to dismiss the amended complaint and the cross-claim for failure to comply with the mandatory filing requirements of Nev. Rev. Stat. 11.258. The district court denied the motions. This petition for writ relief followed. The Supreme Court denied the writ, holding that NDOT is not a design professional as envisioned by the legislature in Nev. Rev. Stat. 11.2565(1)(a), and therefore, the requirements of section 11.258 are inapplicable to NDOT since the action would not statutorily qualify as “an action involving nonresidential construction.” View "Nev. Dep’t of Transp. v. Eighth Judicial Dist. Court" on Justia Law

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Real parties in interest filed a professional negligence action against several healthcare providers. All defendants settled except for Petitioners. During pretrial proceedings, real parties in interest filed a motion in limine to bar Petitioners from arguing the comparative fault of the settled defendants at trial and including those defendants’ names on jury verdict forms. The district court granted the motion. Petitioners subsequently asked the Supreme Court to issue a writ of mandamus ordering the district court to allow Petitioners to argue the comparative fault of the settled defendants and to include those defendants’ names on the jury verdict form for the purpose of allocating liability among all defendants. At issue before the Supreme Court was Nev. Rev. Stat. 41A.045, which makes healthcare provider defendants severally liable in professional negligence actions for economic and noneconomic damages. The Supreme Court granted a writ of mandamus, holding that the provision of several liability found in section 41A.045 entitles a defendant in a healthcare provider professional negligence action to argue the percentage of fault of settled defendants and to include the settled defendants’ names on applicable jury verdict forms where the jury could conclude that the settled defendants’ negligence caused some or all of the plaintiff’s injury. View "Piroozi v. Eighth Judicial Dist. Court" on Justia Law

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Respondent brought an action against Appellant for professional negligence relating to services that Appellant performed for Respondent. After Respondent filed a demand for arbitration, Appellant submitted what it claimed to be two statutory offers of judgment. Respondent did not accept either offer. A panel of arbitrators subsequently ruled in favor of Appellant. The order stated that each party would bear its own fees and costs. Appellant filed a motion in the district court to correct the arbitration award to order Respondent to pay Appellant’s attorney fees. The district court denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because the award of fees and costs by an arbitrator is discretionary even after an offer of judgment is made, Appellant did not demonstrate that the arbitrator manifestly disregarded Nevada law by refusing to award it fees and costs. View "WPH Architecture, Inc. v. Vegas VP, LP" on Justia Law

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After the death of Charles Cornell, Sherry Cornell filed a complaint against numerous defendants, including petitioner Stephen Tam, M.D., alleging medical malpractice. Dr. Tam filed an omnibus motion in limine requesting in part that Plaintiff’s noneconomic damages be capped pursuant to Nev. Rev. Stat. 41A.035, which limits the recovery of a plaintiff’s noneconomic damages in a healthcare provider’s professional negligence action to $350,000. The district court denied the motion, concluding (1) section 41A.035 is unconstitutional, as it violates a plaintiff’s constitutional right to trial by jury; (2) the statutory cap does not apply to the case as a whole, but a separate cap applies to each plaintiff for each of the defendants; and (3) the statutory cap does not apply to medical malpractice claims. Dr. Tam subsequently petitioned for a writ of mandamus compelling the district court to vacate its order denying his motion in limine. The Supreme Court granted the petition, holding that the district court erred in (1) finding the statute unconstitutional; (2) finding the statutory cap applies per plaintiff and per defendant; and (3) finding the statute only applies to professional negligence and not to medical malpractice. View "Tam v. Eighth Judicial Dist. Court" on Justia Law

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Through the adoption of Nev. Rev. Stat. 630.356(2), the Legislature gave physicians the right to contest and the district courts the power to review final decisions of the Nevada State Board of Medical Examiners. In this case, the Board suspended the license of Appellant, a surgeon licensed in Nevada, for rendering services to a patient while under the influence of alcohol and in an impaired condition. The Board also issued a public reprimand and imposed additional sanctions. Appellant petitioned for judicial review of the Board’s decision and requested a preliminary injunction to stay the sanctions and prevent the Board, while judicial review was pending, from filing a report with the National Practitioner Data Bank. The district court denied Appellant’s injunction request, concluding that section 630.356(2), which prohibits district courts from entering a stay of the Board’s decision pending judicial review, precluded such an action. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that section 630.356(2) impermissibly acts as a legislative encroachment on the district court’s power to do what is reasonably necessary to administer justice, and this is a violation of the separation of powers doctrine. View "Tate v. State Bd. of Med. Exam'rs" on Justia Law

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The litigation privilege immunizes from civil liability communicative acts occurring in the course of judicial proceedings, even if those acts would otherwise be tortious. Nevada had long recognized this common law privilege but until this case had not yet determined whether it applies to preclude claims of legal malpractice or professional negligence based on communicative acts occurring in the course of judicial proceedings. The federal court certified to the Supreme Court the question of whether Nevada law recognizes an exception to the common law litigation privilege for legal malpractice and professional negligence actions. The Court answered the district court’s question in the affirmative, concluding that, generally, an attorney cannot assert the litigation privilege as a defense to legal malpractice and professional negligence claims. View "Greenberg Traurig, LLP v. Frias Holding Co." on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was Nev. Rev. Stat. 11.207’s limitations period, which the Supreme Court has stated in the past does not commence for a malpractice action until the conclusion of the litigation in which the malpractice occured. Claimants filed suit against New Albertson’s, Inc. for damages. New Albertson’s hired Brady, Vorwerck, Ryder & Caspino (BVRC) for legal representation, and BVRC assigned attorney W. Dennis Richardson to the case. New Albertson’s eventually settled the case. Over two years after New Albertson’s settlement with the claimants, New Albertson’s filed an attorney malpractice action against BVRC and Richardson. The suit was removed to the federal district court, which concluded that New Albertson’s action against BVRC was timely. The federal district court then granted BVRC’s motion to certify the question to the Supreme Court of whether 1997 amendments to section 11.207(1) rendered the litigation malpractice tolling rule obsolete. The Supreme Court answered that the two-year statute of limitations in section 11.207, as revised by the Legislature in 1997, is tolled against a cause of action for attorney malpractice pending the outcome of the underlying lawsuit in which the malpractice allegedly occurred. View "Brady, Vorwerck, Ryder & Caspino v. New Albertson’s, Inc." on Justia Law

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Real parties in interest in this case were the owners and developers (collectively, P&R) and the general contractor (PCS) of a construction site in Las Vegas. Petitioner, an architecture firm, designed a housing project at the site. After a fatal automobile accident occurred at the site, Plaintiffs and/or their estates filed complaints against P&R, PCS, and Petitioner. Petitioner and Plaintiffs settled, and the district court determined the settlement was made in good faith. P&R subsequently filed a third-party complaint against Petitioner for breach of contract, professional negligence, and express indemnity, among other claims. Petitioner moved to dismiss the complaint on the ground that they were barred as "de facto" contribution and/or equitable indemnity claims. The district court granted the motion in part and dismissed P&R's claim for professional negligence. Petitioner then filed this petition for a writ of mandamus. The Supreme Court granted the petition and directed the district court to dismiss P&R's remaining third-party claims against Petitioner, holding (1) Nev. Rev. Stat. 17.245(1)(b) bars all claims that seek contribution and/or equitable indemnity when the settlement is determined to be in good faith; and (2) P&R's remaining third-party claims here were "de facto" contribution claims and were thus barred by section 17.245(1)(b). View "Otak Nev., LLC v. Eighth Judicial Dist. Court" on Justia Law

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Dr. Obteen Nassiri owned and operated a chiropractic practice and employed Dr. Edward Johnson as a chiropractic physician. Both Appellants were licensed chiropractic physicians in Nevada at the time. Responding to allegations of unprofessional conduct, the Chiropractic Physicians’ Board of Nevada filed complaints for disciplinary action against Appellants. After an adjudicative hearing, the Board found Appellants had committed professional misconduct, revoked Nassiri’s license and mandated that Nassiri could not own any interest in a chiropractic practice until his license was restored, and suspended Johnson’s license for one year with conditions. On review, the district court entered judgment against Appellants. On appeal, Appellants argued that the Board improperly used a substantial evidence standard of proof to determine that Appellants committed professional misconduct. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) in the absence of a specific statutory mandate, agencies generally must utilize, at a minimum, the preponderance-of-the-evidence standard in adjudicative hearings as a standard of proof; and (2) because the Board applied at least the preponderance-of-the-evidence standard in this case, the Board did not err in finding that Appellants committed violations warranting professional discipline. View "Nassiri v. Chiropractic Physicians' Bd." on Justia Law