Lawyer and Insurer May Be Sued For Pressuring Opposing Witness Into Not Testifying

Teresa Sigmon, attorney for the defendant in a medical malpractice case, allegedly pressured one of the plaintiff’s consulting experts in the case into withdrawing from an agreement to testify for the plaintiff. The plaintiff then sued her, her law firm, and the the medical malpractice insurer for “abuse of process, intentional interference with a business relationship, inducement/procurement of a breach of contract, and coercion of a witness.” (The defendant doctor was also sued originally; that claim was dropped.)

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals remanded all of the claims against the lawyer and her law firm for trial except the abuse of process claim.

The Court found the existence of a business relationship between the consultant and the plaintiff and found that a claim existed under both the interference and inducement theories.

The abuse of process claim was dismissed because the alleged conduct of the lawyer did not involve the use of “process” as that term is defined in Tennessee.

The lawyer’s claim of absolute and qualified immunity was rejected as being raised too late,

The medical malpractice insurer, SVMIC, was dismissed from the case because the Court determined that the company could not be held vicariously liable for the acts of the lawyer absent “actual control,” which it found lacking.

The case is Matthews v. Storgion; the appeal numbers of the consolidated cases are Nos. 05-5219; 05-5220 (6th Cir. April 17, 2006).