Professional Liability

The professional liability lawyers at Wheeler Trigg O'Donnell have represented a wide array of professionals and institutions against claims involving physical, financial, and emotional injuries. Our trial-tested lawyers can handle any size of professional liability case. We have particular experience with class actions and high-exposure cases in which the plaintiffs are seeking damage awards, including punitive or exemplary damages, in the multimillion dollar range. Our lawyers are often retained on the eve of trial to try difficult cases, especially those in plaintiff-friendly jurisdictions that involve serious physical injuries or death, when settlement negotiations being handled by other law firms have been unsuccessful.

Our clients have included:

  • healthcare facilities, including hospital, long-term care, and mental health facilities;
  • physicians and other healthcare professionals;
  • lawyers and law firms;
  • sports professionals;
  • accountants and accounting firms;
  • bankers, securities broker-dealers, and financial institutions;
  • construction contractors, architects, engineers and related firms; and
  • insurance brokers, agents, and insurance companies.

These clients have been insured by a number of insurance companies, including Coregis, Westport, Shand Morahan, CNA, Lloyds and Home, Universal Health Services, Premier, and Medical Protective.

We help our clients handle:

  • emergency response to critical incidents;
  • early resolution of claims and cases;
  • coordination with related litigation;
  • media relations;
  • supervision of local counsel;
  • retention of expert witnesses;
  • investigations and formal discovery;
  • settlement negotiations;
  • mediations and arbitrations;
  • class actions and multi-district litigation; and
  • trials and appeals.

Several WTO lawyers are recognized among the best lawyers nationally for their professional liability practices, particularly for their extensive medical and legal malpractice experience.

Medical Malpractice

Numerous WTO lawyers have been involved in defending medical malpractice claims. Several partners and senior associates have represented institutions, individuals, and insurance companies in actions involving medical malpractice claims. Partners John Fitzpatrick, Kevin Kuhn, and Joe Farchione have particularly extensive experience trying medical malpractice actions throughout the United States. Further, WTO employs nurse-paralegals who assist with medical malpractice and medical product-liability cases.

Following is a representative sample of medical malpractice matters the firm has handled.

  • WTO won a complete defense verdict on behalf of a Florida hospital in a three-week medical malpractice trial in Vero Beach, Florida. The case involved a baby who suffered a severe brain injury that led to cerebral palsy due to lack of oxygen after a rare delivery complication of uterine rupture in the mother.  The plaintiff sued the hospital for $7 million claiming the complications could have been avoided had a C-section been performed prior to the rupture. The WTO team argued the uterine rupture was unpredictable and unpreventable and the doctors did everything they could to save the mother and child.
  • WTO won a full defense jury verdict in favor of its client, a Washington, D.C. hospital after a three-week trial. The plaintiffs, a minor with cerebral palsy and his parents, alleged that the doctor provided the child with less than the standard of care, which led to a brain hemorrhage that in turn caused the child's cerebral palsy. WTO established that the child's condition was attributed to his 14-week premature birth.
  • WTO successfully defended a Colorado heart surgeon in Denver District Court. The case involved injuries associated with an atrial fibrillation surgery. After a two-week trial in December 2010, the jury returned a complete defense verdict in favor of the doctor.
  • A plaintiff with a diseased cervical spinal cord claimed a screw that WTO's client, a Colorado orthopedic spine surgeon, had placed in his cervical spinal canal caused him to have neurological deficits following surgery. WTO defended the doctor on both standard of care and causation, arguing that the complications were not caused by the screw, but by the mechanics of the surgery and the diseased spinal cord the plaintiff had before surgery. The plaintiff's demand was for several million dollars, including eight years of pretrial interest that had been accruing. The jury delivered a defense verdict in favor of the doctor.
  • Called in just 10 days before a trial start date to "salvage" a medical malpractice case that "couldn't be settled," the WTO trial team obtained a complete defense verdict for its hospital client in a case in which the plaintiff claimed $30 million in damages for injuries he sustained following a stroke. He alleged the hospital physicians and staff misdiagnosed and failed to properly treat the stroke.
  • WTO won a jury verdict for the defense in a medical malpractice case against a hospital sued following the death of a patient. Plaintiffs had settled with the surgeon for $300,000 and then proceeded against the hospital for $2 million.
  • WTO obtained a defense verdict for a prominent Denver heart surgeon in Denver District Court in a case involving claims of post-operative complications following a mitral valve repair.
  • In a medical tort case, WTO won a victory for four doctors when the Colorado Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court's dismissal of a plaintiff's wrongful death claims regarding the medical treatment the defendants had provided her husband before his death.

Legal Malpractice

Several WTO lawyers have experience handling legal malpractice lawsuits. Partners Michael O'Donnell and Carolyn Fairless have particularly extensive experience defending lawyers and law firms against legal malpractice claims.

Following is a representative sample of legal malpractice matters we have handled.

  • WTO won an arbitration award in favor of its law firm client. The arbitrator denied all legal malpractice claims against WTO's client and awarded it unpaid fees, plus interest, attorneys' fees, and costs.
  • WTO represented a large law firm in a legal malpractice case where the plaintiff was seeking millions of dollars in damages. On the eve of trial, the case settled to the client's satisfaction for a fraction of the plaintiff's original demand.
  • We won partial summary judgment on behalf of a large national law firm that had been sued for malpractice, aiding and abetting, conspiracy, and violations of RICO. The ruling reduced the damage claim from over $150 million to less than $2 million, and paved the way for a favorable settlement of the case.
  • In a legal malpractice case against a Denver law firm in which the plaintiff sought $7 million in damages, we obtained summary judgment for our client and an award of attorneys' fees against the plaintiff and the plaintiff's lawyers. The plaintiff appealed the award of attorneys' fees, and the parties settled the appeal with payments being made to our client.
  • We won complete summary judgment in a legal malpractice case one week before a two-week trial was scheduled to begin. The plaintiff had sought over $5 million in damages.
  • We obtained summary judgment in a legal malpractice action in which the plaintiffs were seeking $4 million in damages. The court awarded attorneys' fees in favor of our client. While the fees issue was being briefed, the parties settled the fee award, with payments being made to our clients.
  • We obtained a Rule 12(b) dismissal of a malpractice case against five lawyers. The opposing party appealed the dismissal and, while the appeal was pending, the case settled with no payments being made by our clients.

Other Professional Liability

  • WTO lawyers have represented engineering and manufacturing companies at trial in over 35 asbestos-related law suits in some of the toughest jurisdictions in the United States.
  • We represented the Vancouver Canucks hockey club and former head coach in a lawsuit brought by Colorado Avalanche player Steven Moore as a result of injuries sustained by Mr. Moore during a hockey game. After an evidentiary hearing, WTO obtained a dismissal of the lawsuit and an award of attorneys' fees and costs in favor of our clients.
  • We represented a structural steel manufacturer and erector in pursuit of a delay cost impact claim arising out of the construction of a ski resort.
  • We defended a general contractor against claims by the injured workers of a steel erector subcontractor.
  • We defended an oil refinery in a law suit that sought additional compensation from a general contractor.
  • We represented a construction manager in a complex dispute involving a general contractor and a municipality and arising out of a jail expansion.
  • We represented a subcontractor involved in the construction of a Colorado gold mine facility in an environmental tort lawsuit brought by the mining company president.
  • We represented a construction and engineering company in a lawsuit alleging negligence by a water engineer.
  • We defended the managing director of an investment banking company yin a case involving issues related to the Parmalat bankruptcy in New York.
  • We defended an engineering company in a CERCLA environmental case.
  • We defended the managing director of an investment banking company yin a case involving issues related to the Parmalat bankruptcy in New York.
  • We have represented architects and engineers on behalf of a large insurance carrier.

Representative Cases
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