A solo practitioner in Silver Spring, Md. is embroiled in a legal battle with his malpractice insurance company over whether he was improperly denied coverage for a dispute with a former client.
Jonathan Shurberg says in his Aug. 19 complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, that the Minnesota Lawyers Mutual Insurance Co. denied him malpractice coverage when he was sued by his former client, Rosa de Jesus Peralta, in May 2009.
Shurberg, who is representing himself, says in his complaint that he is seeking to obtain a court order requiring the company to defend against the Peralta claim and to indemnify him if necessary. Sherberg’s complaint also seeks attorney’s fees.
The insurance company fired back with a countersuit claiming that Shurberg was denied coverage because he withheld information about the Peralta case when he filed paperwork to extend his insurance policy.
According to the insurance company’s Aug. 19 countersuit, Shurberg was hired by Peralta in 2002 to represent her in a work-related slip-and-fall personal injury lawsuit against her employer. The countersuit, filed by J. Jonathan Schraub of McLean, Va.-based Sands Anderson, says that Shurberg failed to request and pay for a transmittal of records from the Worker’s Compensation Commission. Shurberg also failed to respond to a motion to dismiss, which resulted in Peralta’s case being thrown out, the countersuit says.
According to the countersuit, Shurberg filed a motion to alter or amend the judgment in 2004, which was granted, resulting in a new trial for Peralta. The trial court found in favor of Peralta, but her employer, who is not identified in the countersuit, appealed to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals. The appeals court ultimately threw out Peralta’s case again because Shurberg had failed to follow Maryland rules regarding the transmission of records from the Worker’s Compensation Commission.
The insurance company’s countersuit says that after the appeals court’s decision, Peralta sued Shurberg, alleging $200,000 in damages. In 2007, she also filed a complaint with Maryland’s attorney grievance commission.
Because Shurberg knew about the alleged mistakes he made in handling Peralta’s case and that she had filed a bar complaint against him before submitting paperwork to extend his malpractice insurance policy, the company’s countersuit says his coverage was properly denied.
“Because [Shurberg] had knowledge of facts which could reasonably support a claim at the effective date of this MLM policy, the Peralta claim and lawsuit is not a covered claim under the policy, and MLM has no duty to defend the lawsuit.”
The countersuit seeks a court order determining that the insurance company is not required to cover the Peralta suit.