Professional Liability

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Skane Wilcox routinely represents professionals. We specialize in representing lawyers, real estate and insurance brokers and agents, mortgage brokers, actuaries, architects, engineers as well as those who focus in technology and collection services and other related miscellaneous professional specialties. 

We attempt to resolve claims before they become lawsuits. However, some plaintiffs simply want to litigate and have their proverbial day in court. The following provides some examples of cases we have handled for our clients after the filing of a lawsuit.

We prevailed on a motion for summary adjudication on behalf of our client (a law firm and attorneys) for allegations of professional malpractice by arguing the statute of limitations precluded the filing of the lawsuit. The court agreed with our arguments that plaintiff should have discovered, or through the use of reasonable diligence should have discovered the alleged injury before the statute of limitations ran, and the bankruptcy filing did not toll the statute of limitations. As a result of this ruling, we wered able to reduce the initial settlement demand of over six figures to several thousand dollars.

The plaintiff, an owner of a commercial property in Santa Barbara, California alleged its property was contaminated with perchloroethylene (PERC), an industrial solvent widely used  in the dry cleaning  industry. The lawsuit was filed pursuant to the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA) in the US District Court, Central District. The plaintiff sued several defendants claiming they and  their principals were responsible for the plaintiffs’ cleanup costs. Several insurers for one of the defendants filed a claim for indemnity against our client, an engineer who conducted PERC-related investigation and testing on site. On behalf of our client, we argued there was no probative evidence our client’s investigation and/or testing had anything to do with the plaintiff’s claims. We joined in the successful motion for summary judgment filed by the insurers (for the other defendant) on the ground the plaintiff could not show compensable recovery costs.

We filed a motion for summary judgment on the client-broker’s duty to notify an insured of the cancellation of the policy. The plaintiffs claimed our client was responsible for notifying them that their insurance policy was being cancelled. Subsequent to the cancellation of the policy, the plaintiffs were sued for personal injury. The court granted the motion for summary judgment and awarded costs. The plaintiffs were claiming our client should be held liable for over $200,000 awarded against the insured from a binding arbitration award regarding the personal injury claim, in addition to pre-judgment interest and attorneys’ fees.

In a broker liability case where the plaintiffs were seeking over $2 million in damages from our client, we successfully obtained a dismissal. The plaintiffs’ avocado orchard was destroyed in a wildfire. They claimed our client failed to procure the appropriate policy that would cover the orchard loss, despite that there was no insurance available at the time they purchased their policy. The plaintiffs chose to dismiss the case after we explained how the plaintiffs would be unsuccessful in their case against our client.

We obtained an 11-1 defense verdict in a professional liability jury trial. The plaintiff, a single asset corporation, bought a 27-unit apartment building (called “D Street”) from a real estate investment company (“seller”). Our client, a property manager, managed D Street for the seller until it was sold to the plaintiff. The plaintiff could not buy D Street with a traditional loan because they did not have the financing. Accordingly, the plaintiff and the seller decided to enter into a real estate transaction called an “AITD” which is a wrap-around mortgage so that the plaintiff pays the seller on the existing loan as well as a second loan (and the seller continues to pay the existing loan). The plaintiff and the seller did not want the lender to know that D Street was sold to the plaintiff because if the lender found out, the lender could require the plaintiff to immediately assume the existing loan or foreclose on the property. One of the ways the lender could find out is if there is a change in insurance so the seller agreed with the plaintiff they would keep the existing insurance in place in the seller’s name (to cover D Street). When the seller gave notice that D Street was closed, they never told our client to keep the insurance in place. Accordingly, our client closed out the account for D Street and canceled the insurance.  Two to three weeks after D Street closed and the insurance was canceled, D Street burned down causing approximately $600,000 in damages. The plaintiff sued the seller and the real estate brokers. The seller settled with the plaintiff and assigned all of their rights to the plaintiff against our client. The jury found our client met the standard of care and properly closed out D Street, including the cancelation of the insurance for D Street.  The jury also found the real estate brokers met the standard of care and that the only two parties liable in the case were the plaintiff and the seller for not ensuring the insurance was maintained for D Street.