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Hill v. Knox

March 13, 2009

KENNY HILL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
KNOX, MCLAUGHLIN, GORNALL & SENNETT, ET AL., DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Magistrate Judge Susan Paradise Baxter

OPINION AND ORDER*fn1

I. INTRODUCTION

On March 24, 2008, Plaintiff Kenny Hill, an inmate incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution at Petersburg, Virginia, commenced this legal malpractice action against Defendant Knox, McLaughlin, Gornall & Sennett, P.C. ("Knox"), a law firm located in Erie, Pennsylvania, and four of its legal professionals: Richard A. Lanzillo, Esquire ("Lanzillo"), Neal R. Devlin, Esquire ("Devlin"), Bryan G. Baumann, Esquire ("Baumann"), and Lorie Watson ("Watson"), a paralegal, all residents of Erie County, Pennsylvania. Jurisdiction before this Court is based upon diversity of citizenship.

A. Relevant Procedural and Factual History

On or about May 23, 2005, Plaintiff filed with this Court a pro se civil rights complaint pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Federal Narcotics Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), against John J. LaManna, former Warden at FCI-McKean; Marty Sapko, UNICOR/Industry Factory Manager at FCI-McKean ("Sapko"); Stephen Housler, Safety Manager at FCI-McKean ("Housler"); and Deborah Forsyth, Chairperson of FCI-McKean's Safety and Health Committee ("Forsyth")(hereinafter collectively referred to as "Bivens defendants"). The case was docketed at Civil Action No. 05-160 Erie (hereinafter referred to as "underlying action").

On June 22, 2006, this Court granted Plaintiff's motion for appointment of counsel in the underlying action, and Defendants were appointed to represent Plaintiff. Defendants subsequently filed two amendments to the original pro se complaint, and conducted discovery on behalf of Plaintiff. On February 2, 2007, the Bivens defendants filed a motion for summary judgment in the underlying action, to which Defendants filed a response on Plaintiff's behalf. On February 23, 2007, this Court issued a Report and Recommendation recommending that summary judgment be granted in favor of the Bivens defendants. This Report and Recommendation was subsequently adopted by District Judge Sean J. McLaughlin by Memorandum Order dated March 14, 2007, and the underlying action was dismissed.

As a result of the dismissal of the underlying action, Plaintiff initiated this action against Defendants, alleging, in pertinent part, as follows:

32. Defendants had a duty to protect plaintiff's interest by reasonable standards for law firms/attorneys and in conformity with the laws of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and the Professional Codes of Conduct under the State of Pennsylvania.

33. Defendants filed incomplete and ineffective briefs.

34. Defendants failed to complete discovery.

35. Defendants failed to meet deadlines.

36. Defendants did not have the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for prison litigation.

37. As a direct result of Defendants' negligence, Plaintiff's ยง1983/Bivens Complaint was dismissed one week before trial and but for defendants' negligence, plaintiff's ...


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