Professional Liability

Lawyers, insurance agents and brokers, architects and engineers, realtors, physicians and other health care providers, registered representatives and many other professional service providers devote years to giving their clients highly specialized guidance or care. When they become the target of professional negligence allegations, their careers and professional standing are at risk.

Thompson Coe understands what is really at stake in professional liability controversies, and stands ready to defend our clients and their reputations.

Practice Highlights: Professional Liability Attorneys
  • Testified before the Texas House and Senate in support of legislation designed to address the inequities insurance professionals face in defending consumer claims
  • Worked in the professional liability division of a major insurance carrier, handling claims throughout the Southwest
  • Served on the District 6A Grievance Committee for the State of Texas, keeping our whole team current on emerging trends in the legal malpractice arena
  • Certified by the California State Bar as a Certified Legal Malpractice Specialist
  • Served as a federal prosecutor with the Department of Justice, with extensive criminal trial and investigative experience
  • Chaired the Defense Research Institute (DRI) Professional Liability Section and the State Bar of Texas Insurance Section
  • Received their CPA certification, and been involved in professional groups for accounting and a variety of other business sectors (such as the Associated Builders & Contractors).

Strategy. Strength. Sophistication.

We help clients choose the path that is best for them—trial, negotiation or alternative dispute resolution. Litigation often involves related actions before professional regulatory bodies, and our lawyers are also experienced in those often parallel administrative proceedings.

In addition to managing the risk of litigation, many clients seek our guidance on risk management and dispute avoidance. We offer counsel during contract and engagement letter negotiations, and conduct internal risk management seminars for firms and companies, executives and senior management.

Defending professional liability cases requires the kind of focused skills that are the foundation of our practice:

  • Decades of trial experience throughout Texas, California and the Southwest
  • Sophisticated understanding of lawyers, accountants, and other specialists’ practices
  • Practical skills honed in handling professional liability matters for insurance carriers
  • Knowledge of the risks encountered by design professionals in the construction process
  • In-depth knowledge of real estate and insurance brokerage professional practices
  • Aggressive and effective trial skills, combined with strong negotiating capability
  • Analytical capacity to quickly sort and prioritize large amounts of case information.

Lawyers

We understand the concerns of lawyers and law firms facing lawsuits as defendants, instead of as advocates. All too often, allegations and lawsuits are baseless and we have prevailed on summary disposition motions with an arsenal of legal defenses. On the other hand, we also know that lawyers, like everyone else, sometimes make mistakes. But fortunately, our experience tells us that many mistakes cause no damage, providing a proximate cause defense that can often be characterized as a question of law. And when our clients are called before the Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel to face grievance allegations, they welcome the assurance that comes from knowing that we are handling similar proceedings for many of their peers. We offer effective defense in:

  • Legal malpractice and breach of fiduciary duty
  • Conflicts of interest
  • Claims alleging illegal, unethical or fraudulent conduct
  • Liability to non-clients
  • Disciplinary proceedings, investigations, and suspension and disbarment proceedings by the State Bar of Texas.

Any law firm of any size can face claims by current or former clients, or internal problems that raise questions of professional and personal liability. Firms rely on Thompson Coe’s discreet and experienced guidance to defend professional reputations and financial solvency.

Insurance Agents and Brokers

Insurance agents and brokers from small independents to national carriers may face client claims resulting from the sales of life and health insurance, property and casualty insurance, or annuities and other insurance products. Thompson Coe has some of the top insurance malpractice lawyers in Texas and California, who are unsurpassed in their ability to defend individual insurance agents, brokers, or brokerage agencies in litigation as well as in actions by the Texas and California Departments of Insurance.

Many of the cases that we handle require us to resolve allegations of misrepresentation, inadequate coverage or product unsuitability involving:

  • Commercial lines coverage (CGL, Business Risk, E&O)
  • Personal lines coverage (Auto, Home, Health and Life)
  • ERISA and Welfare Benefit Plans
  • Annuities and other investment products
  • Workers compensation insurance.

Architects, Engineers and Designers

Thompson Coe defends architects, engineers and other design professionals against a wide range of construction-related tort claims alleging financial or physical loss due to professional malpractice and breach of contract. Our lawyers understand the construction business and the unique relationships among the various professionals and contractors on a jobsite. Our work with numerous liability insurance companies, skill at contract negotiation and interpretation, and knowledge of construction industry practices form the core of our ability to provide effective counsel to:

  • Architects, both commercial and residential
  • Civil, structural, mechanical, and geotechnical engineers
  • Construction Managers
  • Interior Designers.

We understand the way that architects and their engineering team interact in the design process. Often there are many design professionals involved in the delivery of a complex structure or system, and litigation over alleged negligent error or omission can involve a wide range of parties. We have experience on all sides of the table to effectively resolve malpractice, contract, cost overrun and other liability claims through mediation, arbitration or trial.

Real Estate Professionals

Plaintiff’s attorneys see the complex, high-intensity real estate market as a fertile arena for litigation involving the services of real estate agents, brokers, appraisers, title companies, and fee attorneys. Our lawyers defend these real estate professionals in controversies that involve allegations of misrepresentation, failure to disclose property or financing defects, and failure to uncover title problems. Most of the properties at issue are valued anywhere from the hundreds of thousands to many millions of dollars.

Our lawyers defend clients in proceedings before the Texas Real Estate Commission and the California Bureau of Real Estate, in the trial and appellate courts, and in mediation and arbitration actions. In addition to more traditional real estate controversies, our lawyers are effectively dealing with the wave of litigation that real estate professionals face over the ongoing distress in the subprime real estate market, particularly claims involving foreclosure and inadequate risk disclosure.

Broker-Dealers and Executives

Our lawyers are skilled at defending broker-dealers, registered representatives, financial advisors, and corporate officers and directors against lawsuits filed under the complex and changing maze of federal and state securities laws and regulations. We offer effective help to broker-dealers facing investor lawsuits alleging breach of fiduciary duty, improper investment advice, churning and other claims (including those made by former employees).

Our litigators also regularly represent broker-dealers in other professional liability matters, such as broker raiding cases involving noncompetition and nonsolicitation contracts and in regulatory and disciplinary matters before state and federal regulators as well as the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and the securities exchanges.

Broker-dealers also ask our help when facing allegations of underwriting misrepresentation, including those involving derivatives and other structured financial products caught up in the subprime lending crisis.

Accountants and Benefits Professionals

We have handled accounting malpractice claims for firms of all sizes. Our work includes defense of claims arising out of audits, preparation of financial statements, tax return preparation and all other areas of accounting practice. We also defend accounting and benefits professionals against claims involving employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs), and employee benefit plans covered by the Employee Retirement and Income Security Act (ERISA).

Medical Professionals

More than half of the professional liability lawsuits in the U.S. each year are aimed at medical professionals. The elements of a professional negligence lawsuit - legal duty of care, breach of the standard of care and damages proximately caused by the breach - strike at the heart of professional skill and commitment. Thompson Coe lawyers have defended health care providers in many specialty areas with competent, efficient representation.

Our defense is aggressive and informed, and we have broad experience countering emotional plaintiff arguments with the factual requirements of the law and science. Many individual healthcare professional liability insurance policies have 'consent to settle' provisions, and we often counsel our client - the insured health care provider - on the important ramifications of either giving or withholding consent to settle when faced with a settlement demand by a claimant. See our Health Care practice page for more information. 

Summary:  Meeting the Challenge

Allegations of professional negligence or error can devastate professional service providers who have spent years building their reputations and practices. These lawsuits aim at the heart of a professional’s skill, judgment, and commitment. Thompson Coe lawyers understand the liability challenges our clients face, and provide effective defense solutions using the full range of our firm’s skills and resources. Our firm’s efforts on behalf of professional clients have historically spanned a wide range of liability issues. Whether the claims relate to legal malpractice, medical malpractice, or allegations of error or omission by design professional, financial professionals, and insurance specialists, Thompson Coe lawyers have the sophisticated knowledge, experience and the practical skills to meet the unique challenges of professional liability problems.