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7th Circuit: no liability insurance coverage for associate’s error

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with a Northern District judge’s conclusion that a Dyer law firm’s professional liability insurer did not have to cover a mistake by an associate in a client’s failed business deal because the firm didn’t timely notify its insurer of a potential malpractice claim.

Koransky Bouwer & Poracky P.C. represented George Novogroder when he sought to buy four drugstores in Ohio from Newtown Oldacre McDonald LLC. Three of the four sales closed without issue; the fourth sale never came to fruition because an associate at the law firm inadvertently misfiled the executed contract. On Feb 22, 2007, Newton’s attorney sent a letter to the firm saying the seller rescinds its signature and declares the contract null and void since it did not receive the executed contract. The associate attempted to fix the problem by sending the contract, but the seller still did not want to continue the sale.

This led to litigation being filed in both Alabama and Ohio in March of that year. Also during this time, Koransky Bouwer & Poracky renewed its professional liability insurance with The Bar Plan Mutual Insurance Co., but did not notify the firm of a potential malpractice claim from Novogroder. When the Alabama court, which concluded it had jurisdiction over the case, ruled in favor of Newtown, Novogroder told the firm he was going to file a malpractice claim over the failed transaction. After receiving a formal notice of claim, the firm notified its insurer in August.

But The Bar Plan concluded through an investigation that the firm knew of the potential malpractice claim in February, before it renewed its policy for another year. Based on language in the policy, the insurer declined to represent the firm or indemnify it. Judge William Lee ruled in favor of the insurer on its motion for summary judgment.

In Koransky, Bouwer & Poracky P.C. v. The Bar Plan Mutual Insurance Co., 12-1579, the 7th Circuit looked at the language of the policy in effect at the time the law firm made its claim and agreed with Lee that the firm did not timely notify The Bar Plan as soon as it had reason to think that the failure to deliver the contract to the seller might result in a claim. The policy required the insurer to be notified if an act or omission “may” give rise to a claim, not just when one is filed.

“It may well be difficult to determine exactly when an act or omission ‘might reasonably be expected to be the basis of’ a malpractice claim. But this case is not a close one. Buyer believed that the parties had formed a binding agreement. However, as a result of Koransky & Bouwer’s failure to deliver the executed contract, Seller refused to complete the deal and active litigation ensued,” Judge Daniel Manion wrote.

“Once the Alabama case was filed, Koransky & Bouwer knew or should have known that the only thing standing between it and a probable malpractice claim was the question of whether the Alabama state court would exercise jurisdiction. No matter how we construe the record, it is clear that a reasonable attorney would have recognized that his failure to deliver the contract, in light of the communications and legal activity that quickly followed, was an omission that could reasonably be expected to be the basis of a malpractice claim.”

 

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  1. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  2. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  3. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  4. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  5. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

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