Practices  |  Insurance

Professional Liability Defense


Wiley Rein LLP has extensive experience and expertise representing lawyers, accountants, architects, engineers, and other professionals across the country in defending malpractice and other claims.  Both professionals with the right to select their own defense counsel and insurance carriers with the right to retain counsel to defend their insured professionals turn to Wiley Rein for cases with high exposure or that raise important and complex issues. 

Wiley Rein handles all aspects of many professional liability malpractice defense cases from their inception.  Other times, professionals or their insurance carriers retain Wiley Rein as co-counsel with another firm, charging Wiley Rein with primary responsibility for identifying the key legal issues, posturing those issues for resolution on motion, and briefing and arguing dispositive motions.  Likewise, clients often retain Wiley Rein as appellate counsel following an unfavorable result at the trial court level. 

Wiley Rein's goal in defending all professional liability claims is to obtain the best possible result for the client in a cost-efficient manner.  In some instances, the client is best served by aggressively pursuing a pre-suit settlement, before malpractice allegations are made public.  Other times, it is critical for the professional to be vindicated by prevailing on the merits in a final decision, at trial, or on appeal.  Often, vigorous defense of a case best serves the client's interest by posturing it for a favorable settlement at an opportune moment.  No two cases are the same.

Confidentiality concerns preclude identification of the firm's professional liability clients in most instances.  Representative examples of malpractice defense cases handled by attorneys now affiliated with Wiley Rein are set forth below, but with identifying information included only as to certain publicly reported matters.

  • Represented a prominent family-law firm in a lawsuit in the Eastern District of Virginia alleging malpractice in connection with a former client's divorce.  After full discovery, our lawyers filed motions for summary judgment on a causation theory and to exclude the former client's damages expert from testifying.  After the hearing on those motions, at which the trial court commented favorably on their merits, we negotiated a confidential settlement on terms much more favorable to the firm than had been available before the motions hearing.
  • Represented a prominent District of Columbia lawyer in a closely watched legal malpractice case brought by a Nobel Prize laureate.  Our lawyers prevailed on a motion in limine in advance of trial to preclude $4 million of the alleged $5 million of damages. We then successfully represented the lawyer in a nine-day jury trial, obtaining a verdict that the lawyer did not breach the standard of care.
  • Retained as appellate counsel following a large jury verdict against a law firm in Ohio.  On appeal, the Ohio Supreme Court reversed and directed entry of judgment for the law firm.  The Supreme Court's decision is widely regarded as the most important lawyers professional liability case in Ohio in many years. It clarified considerable confusion in Ohio law regarding the causation element of legal malpractice claim and is now an important precedent often used to defend claims against lawyers. ENC v. Goodman Weiss Miller, LLP, 893 N.E.2d 173 (Ohio 2008) (The appellate argument presented on April 22, 2008 by Richard A. Simpson, now of Wiley Rein, may be viewed on the Ohio Supreme Court's website:
  • Represented two Maryland lawyers in the trial court and on appeal in a legal malpractice case based on the late filing of a notice of appeal following an adverse decision in an underlying commercial litigation matter.  We obtained summary judgment, without discovery being permitted, and affirmance of the summary judgment on appeal, on the ground that the court could determine as a matter of law that an appeal in the underlying case would have been unsuccessful, and that the legal malpractice plaintiffs could not meet the causation element of their claim.  Chesapeake Express Couriers, Inc. v. Rubin, No. 117 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. Jan. 14, 2009).
  • Retained as appellate counsel for an engineering firm following entry of a $4 million judgment in a complex professional liability case arising from construction of a parking facility at John Wayne Orange County Airport.  The appeal resulted in reversal of the judgment in substantial part.  McCarthy Building Cos., Inc. v. Teng Li & Assocs., No. G030544, 2005 WL 1532274 (Cal. App. 4th Dist. June 30, 2005).
  • Retained as appellate counsel for an Ohio accounting firm following entry of an above-limits judgment in a professional liability case raising significant issues regarding Ohio's witness immunity doctrine, proximate causation, and the nature of recoverable damages.  Our lawyers obtained a favorable resolution of the case before appellate decision. 
  • Currently representing a Florida law firm in defending a legal malpractice claim brought by a client arising out of a multi-million-dollar real estate development deal.
  • Currently representing a Connecticut accounting firm in defending claims arising from the Madoff fraud.
  • Represented as appellate counsel an engineering firm and a landscape architectural firm in a New York case that settled on favorable terms while the appeal was pending.
  • Represented a California law firm in defending legal malpractice claims brought by an insurance carrier that had retained the firm to provide coverage advice.
  • Retained as co-counsel for a national engineering firm to handle dispositive motions practice in a Florida professional liability claim. 
  • Represented a Tennessee law firm in defending various lawyers professional liability claims.
  • Represented a national law firm in defending legal malpractice claims arising from its international trade practice.
  • Represented a Virginia matrimonial lawyer in defending legal malpractice claims.

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Richard A. Simpson
202.719.7314 |

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