Legal Malpractice Experts Discuss Conflict of Interest in Malpractice Case

Joseph O'Neill

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— Updated on October 12, 2017

Legal Malpractice Expert WitnessThis case involves an insurer that was sued by a law firm for their alleged failure to pay legal fees, which then counter-sued alleging legal malpractice on the part of the law firm. The insurance group was responsible for providing medical malpractice insurance to a hospital network, and the events of the incident in question were initiated in response to a lawsuit against one of the network’s physicians. In that suit, another doctor was also sued, however she was not covered by the same insurance group. Nevertheless, both physicians were represented by the same law firm in the malpractice suit, in spite of the fact that they had conflicting interests. There was apparently minimal effort on the part of the law firm to compartmentalize the work done for each physician, and the nature of the conflict was not made clear to the insurance provider. Before the trial began, one of the physicians reached a settlement, and due to the existing conflict between the two physicians the law firm was unable to mount a successful defense of the second physician at trial. As a result, the insurance firm was hit with a significant verdict.

 

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Please briefly describe your experience litigating legal malpractice cases.

Expert Witness Response E-136801

I am a legal ethics lawyer who focuses his practice on legal ethics, lawyer disciplinary defense, and the law of lawyering. I have prosecuted and more frequently defended legal malpractice cases and I have served as an expert witness testifying in approximately ten legal malpractice cases (for both plaintiff and defendant). An adjunct professor for more than a decade, I have taught legal ethics at two law schools and law firm operations at one law school, published more than 150 articles on legal ethics matters, and have presented on legal ethics more than 450 times. Thus, my knowledge and experience with issues raised in the factual summary are quite extensive. The summary of facts suggests the interests of the ER group were not properly protected, including because the lawyers and firm involved failed to satisfy their duty of loyalty to the ER group. Perhaps because of conflicts of interest, the lawyers and firm did not properly protect the ER group’s interests vis-a-vis the lawyers and their firm’s other client. Such failure to provide loyal and diligent representation, including due to conflicts of interest, is a common situation in malpractice cases and other matters in which I have experience, and often provides the factual foundation for a viable claim against the lawyers and law firm involved.

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