April 02, 2011 -
Summary Judgment Victory for Malpractice Insurer
SRBC partners Regina Roman and John O'Neill have won summary judgment on behalf of a legal malpractice insurer-client in a dispute over coverage in a fee dispute between a lawyer and his former firm. After the lawyer left the firm with a substantial personal-injury case, the firm sued for a share of the fee. The lawyer sought to have his professional liability insurer, SRBC's client, provide him with a defense and indemnity in the suit, and when it refused brought a coverage suit against the insurer in federal court.
On behalf of the insurer, SRBC successfully argued that this fee dispute did not involve the lawyer's "legal services" and did not seek "damages" within the meaning of the policy, which therefore did not afford coverage. The federal judge who heard SRBC's motion agreed, and also rejected a separate argument by the lawyer that the insurer should be estopped from declining coverage, holding that the lawyer had not shown any improper conduct by the insurer or any prejudice to his defense in the firm's suit. The court granted summary judgment, and dismissed the lawyer's suit against the insurer.