Title Insurance Policies: Rules of Construction

Like all contracts, title insurance policies are subject to rules of construction when a controversy arises between the insurer and insured. While many of the common rules of contract and insurance construction will apply, the unique nature of title insurance policies brings with it its own set of special rules. Continue reading

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The Architect-Client Agreement

As with many professional services, when an architect is entering into an agreement to provide services to a client, a written contract is required by law. The law is specific regarding what elements the contract must contain, and it is important that architects entering into such contracts be aware of these elements and ensure compliance. Furthermore, drafting a sound contract that can be enforced in court is of utmost importance to avoid client disputes and ensure an architect’s legal interests are protected.  Continue reading

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California Supreme Court Rules On Insurer’s Duty to Defend Disparagement Claims

On June 12, 2014 the California Supreme Court decided what constitutes disparagement under a commercial general liability policy in Hartford Casualty Insurance v. Swift Distribution, Inc. Its findings clarify what constitutes disparagement within the meaning of an insurance policy, as well as when an insurer’s duty to defend is triggered. Continue reading

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The Attorney’s Duty of Competency and Co-counsel

As any attorney practicing law knows, each new case brings its own unique issues and problems. Frequently, these issues spill into specialized areas of law that the attorney may not be familiar with, but that must be visited to properly represent the client’s interests. Can an attorney provide competent representation herself on these issues, or is outside legal advice needed?

The Professional Rules of Conduct state that an attorney shall not fail to perform legal services with competence. (Prof. Cond. Rules, rule 3-110 (A).)  Competence in performing legal services means the diligence, learning and skill, and mental, emotional, and physical ability necessary. (Rule 3-110 (B).) The rules further provide that an attorney unable to perform legal services competently may nonetheless continue with the representation and meet the requisite level of competency by associating or consulting with another lawyer reasonably believed to be competent, or by acquiring the skill and knowledge that is required. (Rule 3-110(C).) Continue reading

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Elder Abuse and Reporting Requirements

Nursing homes and long term health care facilities are always at risk of liability for elder abuse. Even the most careful facilities with the most stringent hiring practices can find themselves facing allegations of neglect and abuse. To ensure compliance with laws and reduce liability, such facilities should ensure its employees and administrators understand and comply with abuse reporting requirements. Continue reading

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What Liability is Created in an Engineer by Signing Plans?

Pursuant to California Law, all plans submitted by an engineer must include his or her name or license number. Furthermore, all plans released for construction must contain the engineer’s signature and seal or stamp, as well as the date of signing. (Bus. & Prof. Code §6375(a).) Additionally, Business and Professions Code section 5536.1 requires that all persons preparing plans, specifications, and instruments of service for others to sign them and, if licensed as an architect, to affix a stamp “as evidence of the person’s responsibility for those documents.”  What liability does this create in the engineer? Continue reading

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California Supreme Court Considers Architect Liability to Third Parties

Currently pending before the California Supreme Court is the issue of whether an architect providing professional services to a residential developer can be held liable to the purchasers of the residences for negligence in his performance of his services. In Beacon Residential Community Assn. v. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (2013) 211 Cal.App.4th 1301, the defendants were design professionals offering architectural and engineering services to the Beacon Residential Condominiums, which consisted of 595 condo units. The plaintiff was the managing community association that sued Skidmore, among others, alleging construction defects. As to Skidmore, the plaintiff alleged it owed to the association and future home owners a duty of care, and that its professional negligence caused it to breach that duty when it violated residential construction standards.

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