February 23, 2009
No Records, No Conversion
A Louisiana hearing committie proposes a public reprimand and probation for twelve months in a matter where a medical services provider who did regular business with a lawyer had complained that it had not been paid out of settlement proceeds as agreed. The committee found that the relationship between the lawyer and service provider was so informal, and the absence of required records so complete, that the mess was impossible to sort out. The lawyer and the clinic owner "had resolved outstanding debts...and that they had put a new accounting arrangement in place during the course of the underlying investigation."
The committee's analysis suggests that the failure to keep the records may have helped defeat charges of conversion: "[t]he fact is that, in accordance with the testimony of both [the attorney and the clinic owner], both their records are in such poor condition and the business arrangement so informal as to render a failure to remit virtually impossible." Likewise, his failure to account for client and third party funds "was not the result of an intentional act, rather a poor decision. [His] testimony was that he had stored his records in the enclosed garage of a fellow attorney with whom [he] practiced. The records apparently suffered water damage and mold damage rendering them useless." (Mike Frisch)
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