Justia U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Professional Malpractice & Ethics
Rosemann v. Sigillito
Rosemann hired attorney Sigillito after Sigillito falsely informed Rosemann that he was an expert in international investments. In 2007, Rosemann received a $15.6 million buyout from the sale of his family’s company. Sigillito instructed Rosemann to loan $5 million of the buyout to Metis, a Turkish contractor. When Rosemann resisted, Sigillito told him “the loan was guaranteed by [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] contracts and that Sigillito would structure the deal to protect Rosemann and defer taxes.” Rosemann transferred $15.6 million to Sigillito, who wrote a $5 million check to Metis. For that service, Sigillito charged Rosemann $100,000. Sigillito took some money for his own use and loaned $10.8 million to another party in England. Approximately $2.75 million was repaid. In 2009, Metis defaulted and filed for bankruptcy protection in Turkey. Sigillito filed suit against Metis but the suit eventually was dismissed. The loan remains in default. In 2012, Sigillito was convicted of nine counts of wire fraud, four counts of mail fraud, six counts of money laundering, and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. He was sentenced to 480 months’ imprisonment. Rosemann sued for legal malpractice. The Eighth Circuit affirmed dismissal because Rosemann failed to name an expert who would testify about the appropriate standard of care. View "Rosemann v. Sigillito" on Justia Law
Posted in: Injury Law, Legal Ethics, Professional Malpractice & Ethics
E3 Biofuels, LLC v. Biothane, LLC
In 2005 E3’s predecessor began construction of an ethanol plant, to be powered, in part, by methane, and contracted with Biothane for a boiler system. Biothane, an expert in systems integration but not in boilers specifically, subcontracted with PEI to install and integrate the boilers. Biothane retained overall responsibility. Both are engineering companies. In 2007, PEI’s engineer repeatedly tried and failed to light the main flame of one of the boilers. The repeated attempts caused gas to build up and explode. E3 claims that the boiler never worked properly afterward and that the plant failed as a result. The plant’s owners eventually reorganized in bankruptcy. In 2011 (3 years and 364 days after the explosion) E3 sued, alleging torts against both companies and breach of contract against Biothane. The district court granted defendants summary judgment, finding all of E3’s claims time-barred under Neb. Rev. Stat. 25-222, Nebraska’s two-year limitations period for actions based on professional negligence. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. Regardless of whether the chain of events ultimately led to the breach of a contract, E3 still sued Biothane “for an action performed in a professional capacity.” View "E3 Biofuels, LLC v. Biothane, LLC" on Justia Law
Posted in: Civil Procedure, Copyright, Injury Law, Professional Malpractice & Ethics
Dunbar, et al v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., et al
Homeowners challenged the validity of the foreclosure of their home mortgages. The district court dismissed the suit under Rule 12(b)(6). The court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the law firm as fraudulently joined and concluded that the court had subject matter jurisdiction over the appeal because the doctrine of prior exclusive jurisdiction was inapplicable. The court concluded that Homeowners' pleadings mirrored those in Karnatcheva v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. and affirmed the district court's dismissal. Homeowners have failed to plead factual content that permitted the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct where the pleadings contained nothing but naked assertions that one or more of the named defendants suspected that Wells Fargo lacked legal title to the mortgages yet chose to publish statements to the contrary. The district court was well within its discretion to file sanctions. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Dunbar, et al v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., et al" on Justia Law
Hamilton v. Bangs, McCullen, Butler, Foye & Simmons, LLP
Plaintiff was the president and owner of Company. Plaintiff and Company were sued by an employee for sexual harassment, among other claims. Plaintiff retained Law Firm to represent him and Company. The district court entered judgment against Company. The court later granted Company's motion for a new trial, and the parties subsequently settled. Plaintiff was the personal guarantor on the loans and credit lines provided by lenders to Company. After the original jury verdict, banks and lenders refused to continue extending credit to Plaintiff. As a result, Plaintiff's real estate holdings crumbled, causing Plaintiff to lose dozens of commercial and residential properties. Plainiff then sued the attorney who acted as lead defense counsel and Law Firm (collectively, Appellees), contending that Appellees committed a series of negligent errors during their representation. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Appellees and dismissed Plaintiff's claims for legal malpractice and breach of fiduciary duty, holding that Plaintiff failed to show that his loss of net worth was proximately caused by the actions of Appellees. View "Hamilton v. Bangs, McCullen, Butler, Foye & Simmons, LLP" on Justia Law
S & A Farms, Inc. v. Farms.com, Inc., et al.
S&A sued Farms.com alleging that Farms.com violated the Commodity Exchange Act (CEA), 7 U.S.C. 1 et seq., breached its fiduciary duty, committed negligence, and made misrepresentations. The district court granted Farms.com's motion for summary judgment and S&A appealed. The court found that S&A did not sufficiently plead a fraudulent-inducement claim under 7 U.S.C. 6, but only alleged that Farms.com engaged in a fraudulent scheme under 7 U.S.C. 6o(1)(B). The court concluded that the district court did not err by granting Farms.com's motion for summary judgment on S&A's fraud claim where S&A's complaint alleged only a fraudulent scheme, not that Farms.com's failure to register caused it damages. The court also concluded that the district court did not err in granting Farms.com's motion for summary judgment on S&A's breach of fiduciary duty claim where S&A presented no evidence describing a commodity-trading advisor's standard of care or how Farms.com breached that standard of care.
Gallus, et al. v. Ameriprise Financial, Inc., et al.
Plaintiffs are shareholders of nine mutual funds that were registered investment companies under the Investment Company Act of 1940 (ICA), 15 U.S.C. 80(a)-35(b). The Funds were managed and distributed by affiliates of the defendants (collectively, Ameriprise). At issue was whether plaintiffs have set forth sufficient evidence to survive summary judgment on their claim that Ameriprise breached its fiduciary duty under section 36(b) of the ICA. In light of the United States Supreme Court's decision in Jones v. Harris Associates L.P., the court concluded that plaintiffs have not met their burden, and thus the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants.
Hargis v. Access Capital Funding, LLC, et al.
Plaintiff sued defendants in Missouri state court, on behalf of a putative class of similarly situated borrowers, alleging that defendants engaged in the unauthorized practice of law in violation of Mo. Rev. State 484.020 when they charged certain fees in the course of refinancing plaintiff's mortgage. Defendants moved the suit to federal court under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA), 28 U.S.C. 1332(d) and plaintiff subsequently appealed the district court's judgment. The court held that plaintiff failed to show that she was charged any fees, directly or indirectly, for legal work performed by non-lawyers. Therefore, plaintiff had not shown injury and did not have standing to bring her claim. In light of plaintiff's lack of standing, the district court should have dismissed for lack of jurisdiction rather than reaching the merits of the summary judgment motion. Accordingly, the judgment was affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded with instructions that the action be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.
Doe v. Young, et al.
Plaintiff sued Body Aesthetic and three of its surgeons, claiming that they invaded her privacy and breached the fiduciary duty of confidentiality they owed to her when they gave nude photographic images of her body to a newspaper, which published the images. A jury found in favor of plaintiff on her breach of fiduciary duty claim and awarded her compensatory damages. Plaintiff appealed and requested a new trial, claiming the magistrate judge abused the court's discretion by excluding certain critical evidence that would have likely increased the verdict amount. The court held that the district court abused its discretion in excluding testimony from the newspaper's writer and this abuse of discretion was substantially prejudicial to plaintiff's ability to show defendants' breach of fiduciary duty disregarded her privacy rights and adversely affected her claims for punitive damages. Therefore, the court vacated the district court's judgment on punitive damages and remanded for a new trial as to that issue.
Perkins v. Astrue
Appellant appealed the denial of her application for Social Security Administration (SSA) disability benefits where the ALJ concluded that she retained the ability to perform her past relevant work and was therefore not disabled. The court held that the ALJ was not required to give controlling weight to the opinions of appellant's treating physician. The court also held that because there was substantial evidence in the record to support the ALJ's findings, the court declined to disturb the ALJ's decision on the ground that the ALJ failed to comply with the SSA Commissioner's policies in evaluating the severity of appellant's fibromyalgia and that the ALJ failed to give adequate weight to appellant's statements and the statements of her family and friends. The court further held that the ALJ's hypothetical to the vocational expert was proper and there was no evidence in this case to support a finding that bias impacted the ALJ's decision. Accordingly, the Commissioner's final decision to deny appellant's application for benefits was affirmed.
Roudachevski v. All-American Care Centers, Inc
This case arose when appellant alleged claims of tortuous interference with contract or business expectancy and violation of the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (ADTPA), Ark. Code Ann. 4-88-101, et seq. Appellant subsequently sought a temporary retraining order and preliminary injunction after appellee terminated appellant's patient privileges at a residential nursing home. The court held that appellant did not meet the factors in the Dataphase Syst. Inc. v. C.L. Syst., which evaluated whether to issue an injunction. Consequently, the court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion for a preliminary injunction and the judgment was affirmed.