Archive for August, 2017

Amount of legal malpractice claims remains constant

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017

In recent years malpractice claims have remained pretty constant according to a survey by risk and insurance advisor Ames & Gough. They found that although the malpractices remain constant the legal defense, the damages, and sums of settlements continue to rise.
Even though the frequency of legal malpractice claims remains constant over the years, the recent survey found that the number resembles the levels of the prerecession. The risk and insurance advisor Ames & Gough believe that this could reflect a “new normal.”

The data also showed that in 2016 in respect to damages, six out of nine insurers reported claims

in which they managed reserves exceeding $500,000. One insurer paid a claim that was over $100 million.
In respect to defense costs, the participating surveyed insurers reported an increase in defense costs. There were three factors the study identified as the main drivers, they were the complexity of the case, searching and procuring evidence to be used in case (e-discovery), and increases in defense rate.

At least a 2% increase in average rates paid to defense counsel as reported by most insurers in reference to defense rate increases.
The either first or second biggest cause for claims noted by the participating insurers was conflict. About half of the participating insurers who were surveyed cited the increase of conflict claims as a result of lateral hires. They noted several were a result of poorly managed resolutions to conflict of interest.
There has been a continued increase in cyber related malpractice claims. However, insurers reported that more cyber claims happened last year that in years before. Four of the insurers described hackers as the cause for most cyber events.

“A lawyer’s professional liability insurance policy may cover a firm for a malpractice claim by a client that arises from a breach relating to data,” global law firm Dentons said. “However, many law firms mistakenly believe their traditional malpractice policy will cover any number of cyber-related claims, even those that do not result in a traditional malpractice claim. This might not be the case.”

Couple in Iowa Awarded $3.25 Million After Adoptive Son Reclaimed and Killed by Biological Father

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017

Iowa couple adopted a son, but after his birth parents reclaimed custody, his biological father murdered the child. A jury in Iowa awarded the adoptive parents $3.25 million as a result.

Rachel and Heidi McFraland filed a lawsuit in August 2014, claiming Jason Rieper, their former attorney made them believe the birth mother had signed a release-of-custody document during the adoption process.

Unfortunately, he never attained the birth mother’s signature and the newborn was returned to his biological parents, which would lead to his murder at the hand of his biological father.

Rachel worked with the pregnant teenager, and the couple arranged to adopt Markeya Atkins child. Rachel was even present during birth coaching Markeya through birth in December. The McFarland’s had never considered adoption, however they named their newborn adoptive son Gabriel.

“We didn’t know if we could do artificial insemination, and it seemed like a route we could afford,” said Rachel McFarland. “The birth mom didn’t care if we were a same-sex couple. It just seemed too good to be true — and it was too good to be true.”

At the time, she said, “Me and Heidi were super excited. We thought it was destiny. We felt lucky.”

After 78 days Rieper told them Atkins wanted her child back and everything changed.

“[Rieper] said there is nothing left for us to do: she wants him back and you have to give him back,” Rachel remembered.

Atkins recalled: “It’s like after I gave the baby to them, they didn’t care.”

The couple, who are now adoptive parents to two girls, found out 5 weeks later when the child’s death was broadcasted on the television. The news broadcast never mentioned the child’s name being Gabriel but Heidi recognized the home and confirmed the address with old doctor bills.

On April 22, 2014, baby Gabriel was found dead in his home by police. Atkins told investigators that when she found him in her apartment he was “alone, pale, wet and foaming from his mouth and nose,” she had left him alone with his birth father, Drew James Wheeler Smith.

According to the newspaper the 20-year-old father, pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter he was sentenced to 50 years in prison.

David L Brown, the Rieper’s attorney said they will try and challenge the result, they claim the lawyer had no control over the teen mother.

“You can’t control the emotion of a birth mom, and you can’t control the emotions of a 16-year-old birth mom,” he said. “At the end, the kid wasn’t going to do it and the suggestion that Jason was to force her to do it would be unethical for him.”

However, Roxanne Conlin, who represented the McFarland’s argued, explaining in a Facebook post that he “didn’t get the basic document signed by the birth mother in a timely fashion.”

“After having him for 78 days, they had to give him to her when she asked for him. If the lawyer had done what he was supposed to do, the birth mother would have signed the document called a release of custody and 4 days after she signed it, it would have been impossible for her or the baby’s father to take Gabriel away from them.”

Georgia on the List of Strictest States for DUI Offenses

Monday, August 14th, 2017

If you are driving in the state of Georgia you should think twice before getting behind the wheel after having a few drinks.

According to a recent study by the WalletHUb.com, a personal finance website, the state of Georgia is number two for having the strictest DUI laws in the nation.

A test to determine the most strictest and lenient states for DUI’s, uses a point system of 5 key metrics for criminal penalties and any preventative measures. To avoid unreliable subjectivity, it does not look at Judges’ discretion to suspend or reduce a sentence.

The blood alcohol legal limit is 0.08 in all 50 states. The department of motor vehicles for Georgia, set up penalties of 10 days in jail, a $300 to $1,000 fine, and license suspension for up to a year and 40 hours of community service for first time offenders. However, judges can reduce or waive a sentence at their will, but it is unknown how often this occurs.

“We’re pleased to hear that we are the second most strict state in the country as far as DUI laws go,” said spokesman for the Dade County, Ga., Sheriff’s Office, Chad Payne.

In Dade, Payne estimates that about 30 percent of car crashes are cause by drivers under the influence, he says his department alone has an average pf three DUI arrests a week. Yet, he doesn’t think DUI offenses happen more frequently in Dade County than somewhere else.

Gary Sisk, the Catoosa County Sheriff agreed with the estimates given by Payne, stating that drug offenses are becoming more frequent than DUI offenses.

“It goes hand in hand with the drug epidemic, the opioid abuse and things like that,” said Sisk. “People are driving under the influence of narcotics. It could be a mixture; sometimes it’s alcohol and drugs, and sometimes it’s just alcohol, but I think we’ve definitely seen an uptick in it being prescription medications.”

According to Payne, more DUI arrests happen during the summer time instead of the winter because people are “doing things outside as opposed to being stuck inside,” and at night is when most arrests happen.

“If bars in Chattanooga close around 2 in the morning, people are going home late at night around 2 or 3,” said Payne.

The Georgia Sheriffs’ Association program for Choosing Healthy Activities and Methods Promoting Safety, or CHAMPS are used by Dade County to prevent substance abuse early.

“It starts with fifth-graders,” said Payne. “We try to get them early. We start teaching them about DUIs and stuff like that early on, trying to prevent it.”

CHAMPS covers drugs, alcohol abuse, gun, and hunter safety, the program is very similar to the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, or DARE.

Payne said sobriety checkpoints are used as a preventative measure, they are usually random and not designated by the holidays.

Catoosa, according to Sisk only performs checkpoints to check for license or seatbelt violations, however, if someone appears to be under the influence, “that would be a secondary issue that we would have to deal with.”

During the holidays Sisk stated he believes people are more careful and considerate.

“There are a lot more PSAs [public service announcements] nationally, especially coming up on New Year’s or some of your bigger holidays like that,” according to Sisk. “We always try to put announcements out as well. Find a designated driver, or if you’re going somewhere, go there and stay. And don’t drink and drive.”

Georgia is the second- strictest state for DUI crimes, Sisk believes it’s a good thing for the state.

“We already have enough distractions in the car, we definitely don’t need to add slowed response times to all of that,” he said. “There are too many stories of intoxicated people having wrecks, but the other person suffered the most injuries and/or death and the person who was intoxicated didn’t.”

Payne agreed with Sisk’s comments.

“I’ve arrested a whole lot of DUIs, and being second-strictest in the country, to me, doesn’t seem like a bad thing,” Payne said. “Everybody makes mistakes, but I don’t think our punishments for DUIs is more severe or too severe.”

In addition, he mentioned Dade County Sheriff Ray Cross said, “If that information gets out, and it stops one person from drinking and driving and that saves a life, then that’s great for us.”

Payne, has seen the outcome of drunk drivers who “nearly kill a whole family of innocent people,” in his experience as an emergency medical responder.

“DUI is not a victimless thing. It’s people getting hurt, it’s putting everybody else’s life in danger on the road,” stated Payne.