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    The Lawletter Blog

    Amy Gore

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    Posted by Amy Gore on Fri, Oct 27, 2023 @ 13:10 PM

    Lawletter Vol  48 No. 3

    UIM Changes

    Amy Gore—Senior Attorney

          New changes in Virginia Underinsured Motorist (“UIM”) insurance laws went into effect July 1, 2023, that make a significant change in the benefits available to injured claimants.

         Previously, all auto policies issued in Virginia calculated the amount of UIM coverage available to an injured claimant by subtracting the amount of available liability coverage from an insured’s stated UIM limits. Assuming there was any difference, the reduced sum would comprise the UIM coverage available to an injured claimant. Only those insureds with UIM limits greater than the tortfeasor’s liability limits would ever recover for the benefits they purchased. The new amendment to Va. Code Ann. § 38.2-2206(C) now will

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    Topics: auto insurance, uninsured motorist, VAUIM

    ATTORNEY AND CLIENT—LEGAL ETHICS “Reply All” Only When You Mean It

    Posted by Amy Gore on Mon, May 1, 2023 @ 13:05 PM

    The Lawletter Vol. 48 No. 1

    Amy Gore, Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group Inc.

         Like so many others in today’s society, lawyers are dependent upon electronic forms of communication, including email. The use of electronic communications has raised a plethora of ethical concerns for practitioners. Now, in addition to the previous ethical concerns, the dreaded “Reply All” is added to the list that practitioners must oversee.

         In Formal Opinion 503 (2023), the ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility cautions lawyers to not copy their clients on electronic communications to opposing counsel, unless the intended result is a “reply all” response. The Committee cited Model Rule 4.2 which cautions that an attorney, in representing a client, may not “communicate” about the subject of the representation with a represented person absent the consent of that person’s lawyer, unless the law or court order authorizes the communication. When an attorney sends a communication to opposing counsel and includes the client on the email communication, the receiving attorney is likely going to reply all. This would result in opposing counsel communicating with a represented person, and possibly without the consent of the client’s attorney.

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    Topics: attorney-client, legal ethics, Lawletter Vol. 48 No. 1, email

    INSURANCE: Limits on Homeowner’s Insurance Coverage for Farm-Type Vehicles

    Posted by Amy Gore on Fri, Oct 21, 2022 @ 12:10 PM

    The Lawletter Vol 47 No 3

    Amy Gore—Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

                The Virginia Supreme Court in Erie Insurance Exchange v. Jones by Hardison, ___ Va. ___, 870 S.E.2d 716 (2022), reversed a lower court ruling concerning the scope of coverage under a homeowner’s policy for injuries involving an all-terrain vehicle (“ATV”). There, a passenger on an ATV was injured when a tree limb struck her. The vehicle was operated by the daughter of the named insureds under the Erie Exchange Insurance policy. As with most homeowner’s policies, the Erie Exchange policy excluded coverage for bodily injury arising out of the ownership, maintenance, or use of a land motor vehicle. However, the policy exempted from the exclusion a vehicle if “they are a lawn or farm type vehicle or snowblower, wherever used or located, if not subject to motor vehicle registration.” Id. at ___, 870 S.E.2d at 717.

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    Topics: Insurance, Amy Gore, homeowner's insurance, multi-use vehicle, scope of coverage

    ATTORNEY AND CLIENT: Ethical Considerations in a Virtual Practice

    Posted by Amy Gore on Wed, Mar 16, 2022 @ 11:03 AM

    The Lawletter Vol 47 No 1

    Amy Gore—Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

                As the world’s efforts to combat COVID-19 continue, most practitioners have adapted their practice by virtual hearings and meetings. Virtual law practice was clearly contemplated before the pandemic, but health concerns and court closures have dragged many practitioners further into the future than may have been contemplated even five years earlier. These adaptations have permitted attorneys to keep their lights on their virtual practices while providing clients with continued access to legal representation. The ever increasing reliance on technology to deliver legal services, however, carries its own set of ethical concerns that must not be overlooked.

                The traditional ethical obligation of competence set forth in Model Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 1.1 includes the obligation to remain competent in changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology. The ethical obligation of communication, usually applied in apprising the client of any developments in representation, includes with it the ethical duty relating to disasters. ABA Comm. on Ethics & Prof’l Responsibility, Formal Op. 482 (Sept. 19, 2018). Most attorneys have learned that their ethical obligation of confidentiality includes safeguarding electronic communications. A virtual practice is not inconsistent with these ethical obligations. The practice of law no longer mandates a physical office location.

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    Topics: attorney-client, Amy Gore, virtual office, safeguarding electronic communications, ethical considerations, confidentiality

    ATTORNEY AND CLIENT—LEGAL ETHICS: In the Matter of Rudy Giuliani

    Posted by Amy Gore on Mon, Sep 13, 2021 @ 12:09 PM

    The Lawletter Vol 46 No 5

    Amy Gore—Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

                Recently, the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court suspended the law license of Rudy Giuliani, pending a fuller hearing in In re Giuliani, 197 A.D.3d 1, 146 N.Y.S.3d 266 (2021). Without getting mired in any of the political ramifications the suspension of Giuliani may trigger, this ruling provides a useful procedural and substantive framework for evaluating the limits of advocacy by attorneys, both inside and outside of a courtroom.

                In this case, multiple complaints were filed before the New York Attorney Grievance Committee ("AGC") based primarily on alleged false statements made by Giuliani in various filings before multiple courts as well as statements made to the press and before other groups during the course of his representation of Donald Trump and the Trump Campaign. The AGC is the administrative entity charged with investigating allegations of attorney misconduct in violation of the New York Rule of Professional Conduct, 22 NYCRR 1240.7, upon receipt of a written complaint. One of the procedural mechanisms available to the AGC is to motion to the Appellate Division a request for interim suspension when "uncontroverted evidence of professional misconduct" has been demonstrated. 22 NYCRR 1240.9(a)(5). While the result in Giuliani was an immediate suspension, attorneys retain the right to a complete investigation and hearing. 22 NYCRR 1240.9(c); see Annotation, Validity and Construction of Procedures to Temporarily Suspend Attorney from Practice, or Place Attorney on Inactive Status, Pending Investigation of, and Action upon, Disciplinary Charges, 80 A.L.R.4th 136 (1990 & Supp.).

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    Topics: Amy Gore, license suspension, ethics, limits of advocacy, Rudy Giuliani, false or misleading statements by attorney

    INSURANCE: Business Interruption—COVID-19 Claims

    Posted by Amy Gore on Mon, Sep 21, 2020 @ 12:09 PM

    The Lawletter Vol 45 No 5

    Amy Gore—Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

                During this pandemic, many business owners believed that valuable coverage they had purchased for the businesses would provide a source of some financial security. Prudent business entities purchased business interruption coverage to "indemnify the insured against losses arising from the inability to continue the normal operation and functions of the business, industry, or other commercial establishment insured." Annotation, William H. Danne Jr., Business Interruption Insurance, 37 A.L.R. 5th 41 (1996 & Westlaw 2020). A typical event that has triggered this kind of coverage would be a fire or a hurricane, or some other natural disaster that caused damage to the business premises and closure of the business.

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    Topics: Insurance, Amy Gore, retroactive coverage, denial of coverage

    TORTS: Immunity of Yelp for Derogatory User Comments

    Posted by Amy Gore on Thu, Aug 1, 2019 @ 11:08 AM

    The Lawletter Vol 44 No 5

    Amy Gore, Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

                Dawn Hassell and the Hassell Law Group brought a defamation suit against a former client who posted a derogatory review of the attorney's services on the third-party platform, Yelp, which was not a party to the original action. A default judgment was entered that directed Yelp to remove the review and Yelp was served with the judgment. Yelp then objected to the enforcement of the judgment asserting that the judgment was invalid under the Due Process Clause and the Communications Decency Act of 1996, 47 U.S.C. § 230. The U.S. Supreme Court recently declined to hear an appeal of the decision issued by the California Supreme Court in this matter, making the state decision final. Hassell v. Bird, 5 Cal. 5th 522, 420 P.3d 776 (2018), cert. denied sub nom. Hassell v. Yelp, Inc., 139 S. Ct. 940 (2019).

                Yelp's user agreement indicated that it would remove reviews it found to be defamatory, but it elected to retain the review forming the basis of the underlying suit. Yelp asserted that the directive order violated § 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which afforded immunity to "providers of interactive computer services against liability arising from content created by third parties." There was no dispute that had Yelp been named a defendant in the underlying action, it would have been entitled to claim the immunity afforded under § 230, which would have shielded the provider from monetary and injunctive relief. The order of removal treated Yelp as a publisher of the derogatory reviews by challenging its decision to post the reviews in question. Subjecting Yelp to the removal order, and the extensive litigation that followed, would defeat the immunity offered under the statute.

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    Topics: Due Process Clause, tort claims, Amy Gore, derogatory comments, Yelp

    ATTORNEY AND CLIENT: Maintaining Professional Competence in the Digital Age

    Posted by Amy Gore on Thu, Jan 31, 2019 @ 11:01 AM

    The Lawletter Vol 44 No 2

    Amy Gore—Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

                The Model Rules of Professional Conduct provide that “[t]o maintain the requisite knowledge and skill, a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology.”  Model Rules of Prof’l Conduct R. 1.1 cmt. 8.  Maintaining computer security is both a business responsibility and an ethical obligation for all lawyers.  Additionally, attorneys are charged with the ethical obligation to make reasonable efforts to prevent the inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure of, or unauthorized access to, information relating to the representation of a client.  Id. R. 1.6(c).  The need for attorneys to maintain current security protocols for the technology used in their offices has never been more pressing. 

                Computer “hackers” have infiltrated thousands of computer systems from private individuals to government entities, and litigation firms have increasingly been targeted.  A recent article highlights the story of several firms involved in litigation arising out of the 9/11 attack, including the ransoming of sensitive and confidential information that had been on the firms' systems.  Dan Packel, “Dark Overlord” Hack Shows Mounting Cyber Risks for Law Firms, The American Lawyer (Jan. 07, 2019).  In another case, hackers destroyed files of global law firm DLA Piper in 2017, requiring expensive and time-consuming reconstruction of systems and documents. 

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    Topics: unauthorized disclosure, ethical obligations of attorneys, computer security, security protocols, safeguards

    INSURANCE: Automatic Revocation of Beneficiary upon Divorce

    Posted by Amy Gore on Mon, Nov 12, 2018 @ 10:11 AM

    The Lawletter Vol 43 No 6

    Amy Gore—Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

                The area of presumed intent in the designation of life insurance policies has long been a source of dispute and litigation. When a state legislature enacts statutes that address an automatic revocation of insurance beneficiary status under particular circumstances, additional litigation is likely to result. Such was the case in Sveen v. Melin, 138 S. Ct. 1815, 1817 (2018). There, a couple were married in 1997 and the following year the named insured designated his wife as the primary beneficiary under his life insurance policy, and his two children from a prior marriage as contingent beneficiaries. The couple divorced in 2007, and the divorce decree never addressed the disposition of the life insurance policy or the rights of the contingent beneficiaries. Upon the named insured's death in 2011, both the wife and the two children made competing claims for the entire proceeds.

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    Topics: revocation after divorce, presumed intent, insurance policy, designation of beneficiary, right to contract, legislative presumption

    TORTS:  Expanding Virginia's Anti-SLAPP Legislation

    Posted by Amy Gore on Mon, Apr 9, 2018 @ 15:04 PM

    The Lawletter Vol. 43 No. 2

    Amy Gore, Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

         The Virginia General Assembly has extended a grant of immunity from liability for certain otherwise defamatory statements in an amendment to Va. Code § 8.01-223.2 (Westlaw 2018).  Previously, the anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) statute extended immunity to claims for tortious interference with contract and similar theories when brought over a statement made at a public hearing or similar proceeding.  Such statements were subject to an immunity defense unless uttered with knowledge of falsity or reckless disregard of falsity.  The amendment makes two significant changes.

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    Topics: defamation, tort law, Anti-SLAPP legislation, tortious interference with contract, statutory immunity

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