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Significant Cases

LEGAL MALPRACTICE and PREMISES LIABILITY

Jenifer v. Fleming, Ingram & Floyd, P.C., 552 F.Supp.2d 1370 (S.D.Ga. 2008)

Ladson Law Firm was lead counsel in a legal malpractice action in Augusta, Georgia, resulting in an $890,000 consent judgment for the Plaintiff in May 2010.

The Jenifer case involved multiple cutting edge issues important to any professifonal malpractice claimant.  In Jenifer, Plaintiff successfully argued that “where an attorney’s duties encompass alternative means of ‘safeguarding’ the client’s interests, the statute of limitations runs from the time the lawyer fails to do both” (i.e. from the most recent “failure to safeguard” a client’s interests).  See 2008 reported Opinion by the Honorable Judge Lisa Godbey Wood, United States District Court, Southern District, 552 F.Supp.2d 1370 (S.D.Ga. 2008)(finding Plaintiff’s claims were not time-barred even where malpractice case was filed in 2006 and contingent fee contract entered into in 1999).

In finding that both the individual attorney defendants and the firm employing those attorneys owed a fiduciary duty to Plaintiff, the Court found that “an attorney’s failure to document non-representation in writing, coupled with the giving of some advice, has given rise to a jury question on the issue of whether a relationship existed and thus, a duty owed to the client.”  Thus, a law firm who did not properly withdraw from a client’s representation still owed a duty to their client to safeguard the client’s interest, and could still be held liable for malpractice in the absence of a proper withdrawal.

The Jenifer case stemmed from an underlying premises liability case, where the Plaintiff was seriously injured in a fall down hotel stairs.  Counsel for Plaintiff successfully argued the “prior traversal rule,” surviving summary judgment where Plaintiff had ascended negligently maintained hotel steps, but not descended those steps prior to his fall.  Despite the fact that many slip and fall cases are lost on summary judgment, Plaintiff successfully argued (bringing forth evidence from hotel owner and employees and local fire marshals more than 7 years after the fall) that Plaintiff did not have “superior knowledge” of the hazard, and thus had a viable case but for the malpractice of defendants. 

In Jenifer, Ladson Law Firm thus successfully litigated both the legal malpractice case against the Defendant attorneys and law firm, and the “case within the case,” the premises liability suit against the hotel. 

INSURANCE LITIGATION: DECLARATORY JUDGMENT ACTIONS, BAD FAITH FAILURE TO DEFEND

Fleming, Ingram, & Floyd, P.C., John Fleming, William Fleming, and Wendell A. Jenifer v. Clarendon National Insurance Company, United States District Court, Southern District of Georgia, C.V. 108-075.  (2010):

Following the $890,000 Consent Judgment in the Jenifer legal malpractice case described above, Ladson Law Firm, along with Atlanta co-counsel, obtained a jury verdict in federal court against a New York-based national insurer in June 2010, finding that insurance coverage was owed for that judgment.  (See January 13, 2011 Opinion by the Honorable Judge Lisa Godbey Wood, United States District Court, Southern District,2011 WL 117226, 1 (S.D.Ga. 2011).

Plaintiffs successfully argued to the jury that insurance coverage existed under a “claims made” malpractice liability insurance policy, even though the claim of the law firm was not made in writing until after the expiration of the policy period.  Through a painstaking investigation of applicable facts and law, Plaintiffs survived summary judgment, and post-judgment briefing, obtaining a jury verdict where the insurance company had orally waived its written reporting requirements, making the insured law firm’s verbal reporting of their client’s claim during the policy period sufficient to trigger coverage under a unique “relation back” clause in the insurance policy.

PERSONAL INJURY and TRUCKING

Campbell v. Warrior Transportation, LLC et. al., United States District Court, Southern District of Georgia, C.V. 408-258 (2009):

In Campbell, Ladson Law Firm represented the Plaintiffs in Federal Court, where Plaintiff was a passenger in a motor vehicle collision involving an improperly parked tractor-trailer at the off-ramp of I-95 and Highway 204 in Savannah, Georgia.  Plaintiffs alleged that, in addition to improper parking, the tail lights of the trailer were improperly maintained.  Plaintiffs recovered a confidential settlement from the driver of the motor vehicle, arrested for driving under the influence, and from both trucking Defendants and the employee/truck driver.  Plaintiffs advanced arguments that included a unique “statutory employee” theory of liability, whereby a motor carrier can be held liable for the acts of its driver/agent, even in the absence of a written employment contract.  Two motions for sanctions due to spoliation of evidence against the defendants for destruction of the tractor-trailer evidence (including the trailer itself and the truck driver’s “log books”) were pending when the settlement was reached.

Cosco Container Lines Inc. v. U.S. Intermodal, Inc., Superior Court Of Chatham County, Case No. STCV09033734 (2010):

Ladson Law Firm represented the Defendant motor common carrier in a suit brought by an international shipping company seeking multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars in “per diem” charges from Defendant in a trucking transactional dispute.  Defendant had Plaintiff’s Complaint dismissed with prejudice during discovery, without the necessity of trial, following a motion to compel filed by Defendant, with attorneys’ fees assessed to Plaintiff.

BUSINESS LITIGATION:  COMMERCIAL LEASE CONTRACTS

American Rebar & Wire, Inc. and D. Hodges Construction, LLC. v. Charles L. Stafford & Bryan Mortgage & Finance Co., Superior Court of Bryan County, Georgia, Case. No. Cv. 2006-V-704 (2008):

Ladson Law Firm represented Defendants in a substantial commercial lease contract / option to purchase litigation, resulting in the voluntary dismissal of Plaintiffs’ case on the morning trial began and post-dismissal recovery of $30,000 attorneys’ fee award for Defendants pursuant to O.C.G.A. §9-15-14 motion.  Such a recovery of attorneys’ fees in a contract action is extremely rare in Georgia.  The firm authored briefs to the Georgia Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court of Georgia, successfully resulting in dismissal of Plaintiffs’ appeals of the fee award.

Antitrust

In Re Brand Name Prescription Drugs Litigation, MDL 997, United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois (four cases removed from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia, Waycross Division), subsequently transferred to the Eastern District of New York under style Drug Mart Pharmacy Corp., et.al. v. American Home Products Corp., 95C IV 5148 (ILG). Partner with one of five original law firms handling antitrust case on behalf of approximately 4,000 independent and chain drug stores (more than 400 in Georgia) against 26 brand name drug manufacturers and 3 mail-order pharmacies. Claims include price-fixing under the Sherman Act and price discrimination under the Robinson-Patman Act. Sherman Act settlements between 1998 and 2005 are confidential, but are millions of dollars. Details will be released when case is completed. Robinson Patman test case trials should begin in 2006.

RICO

Southern Intermodal Logistics, Inc. vs. D.J. Powers Company, Inc., et al., State Court of Chatham County, Georgia, Civil Action No. I98-1787-F. Georgia RICO case filed by trucking company against customs house broker arising out of illegal kickback scheme. Claims for compensatory and punitive damages, as well as claims asserted in separate fraudulent conveyance action, were settled in 2003 for $850,000. Catalyst for new Georgia RICO decisional law.

Summary judgment was denied the customs house broker in federal court as reported in opinion of Judge B. Avant Edenfield, 10 F.Supp. 2d 1337 (S.D. Ga. 1998). Following remand, State Court of Chatham County's dismissal on statute of limitations was reversed by the Georgia Court of Appeals, and certiorari was denied by the Supreme Court of Georgia in 2002. Important issues included the single transaction rule and whether mere threats of economic injury were sufficient to trigger the Georgia RICO statute of limitations.

Penny A. and Susan Norwood v. Russell Acree, et al, United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia, CV 7-96-CV-01 (1998)(consolidated cases)(unpublished opinions). District Court ruled in 3 orders between 1996 and 1998 that Georgia RICO statute could not be applied retroactively to permit plaintiffs' personal injury claims since the legislative intent provision of the original Georgia RICO statute, O.C.G.A.§ 16-14-2(b), only applied to criminal activity involving pecuniary gain. Georgia RICO statute was amended during the course of the litigation to cover criminal activity that involved pecuniary gain or physical injury. Orders for defendant represented by Mr. Ladson discuss legislative history of Georgia RICO, as well constitutional prohibition against ex post facto application of legislation.

Health Care

Quick Rx Drugs, Inc., et al. v. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia, Inc., et al., Superior Court of Chatham County, Georgia, Civil Action No. CV95-1512-BR. First known cash discount card suit filed in United States against Blue Cross asserting tortious interference with contract, fraud and RICO violations arising out of discount cards given to certain Blue Cross customers. Class action suit filed on behalf of all retail pharmacies in Georgia for damages in excess of $4,000,000.00 was dismissed by the plaintiffs in 2005 following denial of class certification.

In Re Brand Name Prescription Drugs Litigation, MDL 997, supra. As reported above, this case involved antitrust claims against major pharmaceutical companies for unlawful discrimination in the pricing of brand name prescription drugs.

Private Defamation

John D. Robinson Corporation v. Southern Marine & Industrial Supply Company, et al., Superior Court of Chatham County, Georgia (1990). Libel action filed by Savannah ship chandler company against competitor for defamation of business and owner arising out of defamatory letters to Greek customers. First trial in 1989 resulting in verdict for plaintiffs of $589,000 was reversed as reported at 196 Ga. App. 402, 396 S.E.2d 402 (1990). Plaintiffs, represented by Mr. Ladson, obtained judgment in second trial on jury verdict for $1,860,000 in February of 1992. One of the highest jury verdicts in Chatham County when obtained.

Medical Malpractice

Retus Howard Corley -vs- Tom V. Willis, Jr., M.D., et al., U.S. District Court, Southern District of Georgia, Brunswick Division, Civil Action No. 299-043 (2000). Negligence suit against surgeons and other doctors arising out of post-surgical infection. Week-long trial resulted in a hung jury, but case was quickly settled for $2,500,000.

Psychiatric Malpractice

Joseph Budd v. Mark Friedman, CV289-97 (S.D. Ga. August 21, 1990). First reported jury verdict in Georgia for psychiatrist in malpractice wrongful death action involving outpatient who committed suicide. One of earlier reported verdicts nationwide dealing with this issue. Unpublished opinion by Chief Judge Anthony Alaimo. Mr. Ladson represented the defendant psychiatrist.

Insurance

Home Insurance Co. v. North River Insurance Co., State Court of Chatham County, Georgia (1989). Negligent failure to settle tort case against excess carrier arising out of $1,250,000.00 jury verdict. $738,477.00 verdict for plaintiff reversed by Georgia Court of Appeals. Mr. Ladson represented the defendant. Failure to settle issues discussed at 192 Ga. App. 551, 385 S.E.2d 736 (1989).

Personal Injury

Robert Cox and Barbara Cox v. All Coast Intermodal Services, Inc., et al., CV-404-53, United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia, Savannah Division. Personal injury suit arising out of tractor-trailer accident settled for the Plaintiff for policy limits of $1,000,000.00 in December of 2004. Mr. Ladson represented the plaintiff. Details of important other cases will be provided upon request.

Trucking

See Robert Cox and Barbara Cox v. All Coast Intermodal Services, Inc., et al. Important intermodal transportation issues involved.

Southern Intermodal Logistics, Inc. vs. D.J. Powers Company, Inc., et al., State Court of Chatham County, Georgia, Civil Action No. I98-1787-F. See discussion above on case involving recovery of damages by trucking firm for illegal kickback scheme in intermodal shipping industry.

The Law Offices of M. Brice Ladson, P.C. serves clients in the Savannah, Georgia area and the Georgia counties of Chatham, Effingham, Bulloch, Liberty, and Bryan. Clients are also welcome from the following communities: Port Wentworth, Pooler, Richmond Hill, Vernonburg, Garden City, Bloomingdale, Rincon, Springfield, Statesboro, Brunswick, Sylvania, Hinesville, Walthourville, Hardeeville, Baxley, Vidalia, Warner Robins, Milledgeville, Columbus, Atlanta, Athens, Carrollton, Gainesville, Albany, and Bainbridge.