May 24, 2007
The Florida Supreme Court rejected a referee's recommendation for diversion in a disciplinary case where the attorney had been charged with misconduct in defending a dog bite case. The allegations involved his dealings with a treating doctor and taking advantage when he received medical records by mistake. The records, which were admitted by stipulation, contained an entry not on copies attached to the witness' earlier deposition. A jury award had been overturned by the district court based on a finding that the trial court had abused its discretion by admitting the medical record that contained the unfavorable notation. The district court "condemn[ed] the actions of defense counsel as to both the contact with [the doctor] and the strategic concealment of [the] records."
The Florida Supreme Court found that the lawyer had engaged in "sharp practice" and that his conduct "offends our well-recognized policy that cases should be decided on the merits and not by a lawyer's stooping to sneaky or underhanded trial tactics." The court concluded that the misconduct was not "minor" and that diversion was thus inappropriate. The lawyer was ordered to appear before the Board of Governors of The Florida Bar to receive a public reprimand. (Mike Frisch)
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