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Blain v. Doctor's Co. - 222 Cal. App. 3d 1048, 272 Cal. Rptr. 250 (1990)

Rule:

The doctrine of unclean hands bars a cause of action premised on an alleged injury of emotional distress where a plaintiff doctor lies under oath about the incident for which he is being sued, as he must know that if the lie is discovered it will adversely affect his defense, and his misconduct is the instrumentality of harm.

Facts:

Plaintiff physician Raymond L. Blain was a former defendant in a malpractice action. He followed the directions of his insurance defense counsel to lie during a deposition in a medical malpractice action. Thereafter, plaintiff filed an action against that attorney, and plaintiff's wife filed a loss of consortium claim. According to the plaintiff, the defense attorney's improper strategy exposed the physician to greater liability, caused him emotional distress, and precluded his further work as a physician. The medical malpractice action had ultimately been settled with the insurer paying the policy limits and the physician paying nothing. The trial court sustained demurrers to the complaint without granting leave to amend, finding that the equitable doctrine of unclean hands worked as a complete bar to any theory of recovery plaintiff could reasonably advance and hence to wife's claim as well.

Issue:

Did the equitable doctrine of unclean hands preclude an action for legal malpractice predicated upon injuries caused when Raymond L. Blain, a physician-defendant in a medical malpractice action, followed the advice of his lawyer to lie at a deposition?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The Court held that the doctrine of unclean hands applied in the case at bar. According to the Court, there appeared to be no reasonable basis upon which plaintiff could premise any theory of recovery had he been permitted to amend the complaint. The Court ruled that plaintiff's alleged injury of emotional distress was untenable and that any recovery was barred by his own knowing misbehavior. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the judgment, holding that none of the claims stated a cause of action, because plaintiff's own conduct operated as a bar to his recovery under the "unclean hands" doctrine. Nor was there reason to believe the deficiencies of the complaint could be overcome upon further amendment. 

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