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‘BlackBerry’ malpractice coverage claim back in Virginia

A legal malpractice matter arising out of the multi-million dollar BlackBerry settlement is back in Virginia federal court.

An Alexandria district court dismissed the dispute that arose when Minnesota Lawyers Mutual Insurance Company denied coverage to the Arlington patent law firm that shared in a $613 million settlement of a case against Research In Motion. Today the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision, according to Danny M. Howell, the McLean lawyer who represents MLM.

MLM issued a professional liability policy to the Arlington law firm Antonelli, Terry, Stout and Kraus LLP. A former client sued the firm in Florida state court in 2008, alleging that partner Donald Stout and the firm conspired to cheat the Florida plaintiffs, beneficiaries of the estate of inventor Andrew Andros, out of valuable rights to patents and wireless e-mail technology.

The Florida plaintiffs alleged Stout and his firm induced them to give up their interest in patents transferred to NTP Inc., a company controlled by Stout and owned in part by him and other members of the Arlington firm. Because they allegedly relied on Stout’s advice, they argued they had no documented interest in the patents that would allow them to share in the settlement.

The lower court dismissed MLM’s dec action, saying the Virginia suit would create “unnecessary entanglement” with a pending state court action in Florida.

In an unpublished opinion in MLM v. Antonelli, Terry, Stout & Kraus LLP, 4th Circuit Judge Roger Gregory said “it is unreasonable to conclude that a Florida state court is a better arbiter of Virginia law than the Eastern District of Virginia,” and the lower court abused its discretion in dismissing the case.
By Deborah Elkins

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