Crime Writer Granted New Fiduciary Duty Trial

     BOSTON (CN) – Author Patricia Cornwell will get another day in court against her former managers after the First Circuit granted her a new trial for her claims of financial mismanagement.
     The Boston-based appeals court remanded Cornwell’s trial in Massachusetts Federal Court, which saw the author awarded $51 million before the award was stripped away by the judge in an effort to correct his errors.
     The renowned crime novelist sued accounting firm Anchin, Block & Anchin and Evan Snapper for allegedly mismanaging her money and real estate transactions.
     Cornwell’s lawsuit alleged that the defendants mismanaged her investments, kept shoddy records and bungled real estate deals that resulted in Cornwell missing the deadline for her novel “Book of the Dead.” The original lawsuit alleged breach of contract, negligence and breach of fiduciary duty.
     Cornwell won the initial case with the jury calling for a $51 million award. The award was overturned a year later by U.S. District Judge George O’Toole, who determined that he had erred in his jury instruction on the statute of limitations.
     The jury was instructed to only consider activity from within three years of the lawsuit’s filing for the contract and negligence charges due to the statute of limitations, but O’Toole erroneously instructed the jury to disregard the three-year statute of limitations for the fiduciary duty charge, according to the judge’s corrective move one year later.
     The First Circuit on Monday agreed with O’Toole’s move, finding that he was correct to adjust his ruling to reflect New York’s three-year statute of limitations for fiduciary duty cases that seek monetary damages. Cases that seek equitable remedies have a six-year statute. In Cornwell’s case, she was seeking monetary damages.
     “We…conclude that our ‘usual[]’ approach is the correct one in this case,” Judge David Barron wrote for a three-judge panel. “Under that approach, where ‘a single verdict question encompasses multiple theories, one of which is defective,’ ‘a new trial is usually warranted.'”
     Cornwell is known for fiction books in her Kay Scarpetta series, including “Cruel and Unusual” and “Book of the Dead.”

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