Mistrial declared in estate-planning malpractice suit against Nelson Mullins after jurors can't agree
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A judge in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, has declared a mistrial in a malpractice lawsuit alleging that an estate-planning lawyer at Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough failed to ensure that a wealthy couple’s five children each shared equally in trust money.
Judge Jeffrey Levenson of the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit of Florida declared a mistrial July 21 after jurors deadlocked on one malpractice count, report Law360 and the Courtroom View Network.
The Miami Herald and Bloomberg Law covered the lawsuit when it was filed in 2020.
Jurors told lawyers after the mistrial that they had unanimously favored the defense on 14 counts, according to Nelson Mullins spokeswoman Beth Huffman, who spoke with Law360. Five out of six jurors favored the defense on the 15th count, Huffman said.
The malpractice count had alleged that Nelson Mullins lawyer Carl Rosen had a conflict of interest when he helped the wealthy couple’s eldest son move millions of dollars in trust assets into a Nevada trust that gave the son more access to funds. The family had agreed to waive conflicts of interest in 2012, but legal ethics expert Charles Wolfram testified during the trial that the conflicts were so great that the plaintiffs should not have been advised to sign the waiver, Law360 reported in June.
Rosen worked for Broad and Cassel when he first became involved in estate planning for the wealthy couple in 2004. The law firm later merged with Nelson Mullins.
The plaintiffs are Dr. Steven Scott and his wife, Rebecca Scott. According to the Miami Herald, Scott “made a fortune in the health care field” through the sale of two companies that he founded, an HMO called Vista HealthPlan and a management services company called Phoenix Physicians.
The Scotts had argued that the eldest son, Rob Scott, received about $48 million more than the other children following the sale of Phoenix Physicians, in which Rob Scott had a 30% interest, for $160 million in 2014. Only four years earlier, the share of the company was valued at less than $685,000, according to Law360.
The defense had argued that Scott had agreed to give his eldest son a share of Phoenix Physicians and allowed the decanting of the trust to Nevada because of fears about lack of trust protections in Florida.