Friday, March 27, 2009


An insurance company is not obligated to defend claims brought against a law firm that do not involve allegations of negligence or malpractice, according to a decision of the New York Appellate Division for the Second Judicial Department:

Here, Liberty established its prima facie entitlement to judgment as a matter of law declaring that it was not obligated to defend and indemnify the Burkhart Firm in the underlying action, and the Burkhart Firm failed to raise a triable issue of fact in opposition. The basic coverage provision of the Liberty policy clearly limits coverage to claims which are caused by "any actual or alleged act, error, omission or personal injury which arises out of the rendering or failure to render professional legal services." Inasmuch as there is no allegation of negligence or malpractice arising out of the Burkhart Firm's performance, or failure to perform, legal services, the claim in the underlying action does not fall within the ambit of the policy. For the same reason, the Supreme Court properly denied that branch of the Burkhart Firm's cross motion which was for summary judgment.

The allegations against the firm are summarized in the court's order:

In the underlying complaint, Financial Advisors Legal Association, Inc. (hereinafter FA Legal), asserted claims for relief against the Burkhart Firm for "wanton, willful and malicious" breach of fiduciary duty for misappropriating FA Legal's confidential information and trade secrets; tortious interference with contract for using this information to attempt to convert FA Legal's members and prospective members to a newly- formed competing business entity; and for "wanton, willful and malicious" misappropriation of trade secrets.

(Mike Frisch)

Economics | Permalink

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