Our firm regularly handles professional liability cases in the defense of accountants, attorneys, banks, trusts, escrow agents, title insurers, lenders, realtors, home inspectors, insurance agents and condominium boards of directors, including one of the largest real estate management companies in the Midwest. We routinely handle these types of claims for AIG (now Chartis), Chubb Specialty, Darwin Professional Underwriters, Farm Bureau, Fireman’s Fund, Lancer Claims, Liberty International Underwriters, Target Capital Companies, Utica National Insurance and Travelers, among others. We have a solid record of winning dispositive motions for our clients and many have been settled without indemnity payments. We highlight below some of our successfully handled professional liability cases.
Real Estate Errors & Omission
Of all of the real estate errors and omissions cases that we have handled, only two have been tried to verdict and we obtained successful results for our clients in both instances. One of the cases tried involved a dispute between a buyer and a seller in an aborted real estate transaction. The realtor had retained the earnest money. The plaintiffs sued the realtor and the homeowner asking for the return of the earnest money and attorney’s fees. The dispute centered on whether the sale was properly voided. The Court made a determination that the plaintiffs were entitled to the earnest money but refused to award punitive or extra-contractual damages.
In the second case that we tried to a successful conclusion, the plaintiffs sought damages for fraud. The real estate contract showed that the plaintiff waived inspections, except for a termite inspection report. They waived home protection insurance, and signed a closing statement accepting the property as is. The sellers’ disclosure statement showed that the sellers claimed that the central heating system, furnace, and plumbing system were working properly. The plaintiffs alleged that the sellers and brokers had concealed a defective heat exchanger in the furnace in the home. The plaintiff also claimed that he relied on a television advertisement that declared that the home was in “mint condition”. At trial we showed that the television advertisement was first shown three days after the plaintiff signed the purchase agreement. We obtained a defense verdict.
Directors and Officers Liability – HOA & Condo Associations
Our D & O partners represent numerous condominium and not-for-profit boards through D & O coverage provided by various insurers on issues including breach of fiduciary duty and intrusion into right of quiet enjoyment. A majority of the cases have been settled with no indemnity payment. We are often retained directly by the boards for non-litigated matters as a result of our success. We also represent numerous home inspectors through E & O coverage provided by various insurers. Our partners are active participants and frequent speakers on home inspection contracts with the National Society of Home Inspectors and the American Society of Home Inspectors.
Financial Institution Defense
We regularly represent banks, trusts and financial institutions in E & O, breach of trust, UCC and other statutory claims such as the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and state trade secrets acts. Illinois Partner Robert Kopka concluded an appeal of a matter involving a claimed breach of a Land Trust in which a lender took an assignment of beneficial interest from the beneficiary of the land trust. When the beneficiary obtained the Trustee’s permission to refinance the property, without the consent of the assignee-lender, the Trustee was sued for breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty for approving the refinance without the assignee-lender’s agreement. We settled the matter and proceeded against the original beneficiary as well as against the refinance lender for closing without notice to the Land Trustee. These are often complicated matters, which require knowledge of trust, escrow, UCC and contract principals. Having represented Fidelity & Deposit Insurance Company for many years, we have broad experience defending banks, lenders and financial institutions. We have also pursued recovery on behalf of fidelity and surety bond carriers.
Many of the professional liability cases we have been assigned have included legal malpractice defense. We have experience defending lawyers and law firms in the defense of malpractice claims including claims involving statutes of limitations, trust, wills and family law, accounting and transactional matters and litigation, among other areas of practice. We work with the insured law firm and other defendants to seek creative ways to resolve litigation without unnecessary cost or adverse publicity. We have a solid record of settling our legal malpractice cases for substantially less than the demand amounts. In one case, handled by Illinois Partner Timothy Palumbo, involving a probate matter, the insured drafted a will for an elderly client with a large estate, and allegedly negligently drafted the will so that when the decedent passed away, there were rather large tax implications for the estate. We were successful in extricating the insured from the litigation via a motion for summary judgment concerning limitations issues, standing and proper parties at issue. The case went up on appeal and the insurer paid a nominal sum to settle the matter.
We have a group of partners dedicated to the defense of doctors, hospitals, nursing and extended care facilities and specialized care facilities such as dialysis centers and facilities for developmentally disabled adults. These cases present special challenges due to the personal nature of the claims and require a firm understanding of the medical care provided. Our attorneys have the experience and the resources necessary to provide creative and aggressive defense to these claims.
Successfully defended William Beaumont Hospital, its surgeons and emergency medicine physicians in several multi-million dollar jury demands wherein the jurors in each of the cases found the defendants were not professionally negligent; and therefore, that the plaintiffs were not entitled to compensation for any economic or non-economic damages from the defendants, and the jurors returned verdicts for the defendants.
Indiana Partner James Milstone, settled by mediation, three high profile medical malpractice suits with exposure of up to a total of $4,000,000. The plaintiffs suffered radiation burns caused by misuse of hospital radiation equipment. The defendants were required to report to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Each of the three cases settled favorably. In another Indiana medical malpractice case the plaintiff alleged a violation of standard care after having a procedure done where radioactive seeds were implanted as a result of a health issue with the plaintiff’s prostate. The plaintiff alleged that the doctor performing the procedure did not verify that the order for the radioactive seeds was correct and implanted seeds of the wrong strength and quantity. The case was dismissed and no indemnity was paid.