The legal profession is, at times, rife with attorney misconduct. That misconduct often makes for rather interesting headlines and , as well, generates significant concern by other members of the profession , as well as efforts to regulate that misconduct, by those that regulate the profession.

Misbehaving attorneys are accountable , under some circumstances, to the judges that preside over their cases in Florida courts. In a recently reported decision, two law firms were held accountable by a Federal judge for the unjustified burden and expense they had placed on the Federal courts. Those firms had filed personal injury suits against the tobacco companies on behalf of the plaintiffs who were deceased when the suit was filed, had not authorized the suit before death , whose families had not authorized the suits, and ( in the case of those plaintiffs who were among the living) had not agreed to be plaintiffs or , in some cases, were not smokers . The court where the cases were pending eventually found this out and fined the law firms involved a total of $9.1 million for what the court called a “waste of judicial resources”.

Sometimes parties to a civil suit can hold misbehaving attorneys, representing opposing parties, financially accountable, based on those attorneys’ misconduct in , or connected with , a litigated case. Normally, under Florida law, an opposing attorney is protected from suit by the party he is suing, even if he slanders that party in court and lies to the court. The attorney’s protection comes from what is called the ” litigation privilege”. However, a recent Florida case , involving a plumbing business pursuing an insurance claim , resulted in an appeals court saying the litigation privilege was not absolute, overturning a trial court ruling that threw out the claim before trial.

That case involved a law firm who represented insurance companies and who was working to ensure that those who made an insurance claim were not compensated under that insurance policy. The insurance defense law firm purportedly took actions outside of the accepted boundaries of the litigation privilege by seeking information through means that encroached on private and confidential trade secrets and doing so in ways that were manipulative and deceptive . In that case, the claim by the plumbing company against the insurance defense counsel will now proceed to trial. The appeals court found that the litigation privilege is not always applicable where actions are taken by attorneys outside normal channels ( even if connected to a litigated case) and that attorneys can be found liable for their work on behalf of their clients where their alleged misbehavior that adversely effects the opposing party was intentional and malicious.

The Wotitzky firm provides quality, ethical and effective litigation and trial advocacy services in all areas of civil litigation. If you have any civil litigation matter that you care to discuss with an experienced trial attorney, please call Warren Ross at 941-639-2171.