Monday, April 21, 2014

Risk News: Two Stories of Law Firm Malpractice Allegations

"Who Picks Counsel: Firm or Insurer?" --
  • "O'Donnell, Ferebee, Medley & Frazer of Houston wants to select the lawyer who will defend the firm from some malpractice counterclaims instead of using a defense attorney picked by its liability insurer. In a petition filed April 3 in the 269th District Court in Harris County, O'Donnell Ferebee seeks a declaratory judgment that it has a conflict of interest with Travelers Casualty and Surety Co. of America that would prevent Travelers from selecting the defense counsel."
  • "'Therefore, defendant has the duty to defend O'Donnell Ferebee and the law firm can choose the counsel to represent it and that defense will be paid for by defendant,' O'Donnell Ferefee alleges in O'Donnell, Ferebee, Medley & Frazer PC v. Travelers Casualty and Surety Co. of America."
  • "O'Donnell Ferebee alleges that Travelers notified it by letter on Feb. 7 that it would provide the firm with a defense but reserved the right to limit coverage… 'The letter then sought to control the defense of the claim by assigning the defense to a law firm chosen by defendant,' O'Donnell Ferebee alleges in the petition."
  • "O'Donnell Ferebee alleges that a conflict of interest prevents Travelers from 'conducting the defense' in the underlying litigation because it selected defense counsel and because the facts to be adjudicated in the underlying litigation are the same as the facts upon which the defendant will determine coverage."
  • "John Schutza, the Travelers claim counsel handling the O'Donnell Ferebee claim, did not return a telephone message left at his office in Richardson or respond to an emailed request for comment."
  • "Venzke, of the Venzke Law Firm of Houston, said O'Donnell Ferebee filed the declaratory judgment action to get attention from Travelers."
"Englewood bank at center of legal suit" --
  • "A loan made by Englewood-based NVE Bank is at the center of a malpractice lawsuit filed against Wolff & Samson of West Orange by a real estate investor who contends the law firm failed to protect him from legal action taken by the bank."
  • "Richard Berlowe, one of three principals in Ber-Loew Partnership, a real estate investment firm, argues in a suit filed in Superior Court in Newark that the law firm didn't raise key issues in defense of the partnership when the bank sued to recover money owed on a loan."
  • "The lawsuit, which was filed last month, says the two other partners, Harold Berlowe and Barbara Berko, secured a loan with NVE Bank by executing mortgages on the partnership's real estate – unbeknown to Richard Berlowe, who is identified as Harold Berlowe's father."
  • "Wolfe & Samson defended the partnership as well as the individual members in the case, the Essex County suit says. But the law firm failed to take into account the conflict of interest between the partnership and the two partners, who were liable personally and signed the loan documents, Richard Berlowe's suit says."

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