April 8, 2010
Death Be Not Disclosed
The Minnesota Supreme Court has imposed an indefinite suspension with no right to apply for reinstatement for at least 12 months in a case where the attorney failed to advise opposing counsel that his client had died prior to reaching a settlement of the client's claim. Ironically, the underlying case involved a claimed violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act in that a credit agency reported that the client was dead. The client died during settlement negotiations. Three weeks later, the attorney accepted the credit agency's settlement offer of $19,000.00.
The settlement agreement was signed and executed by the client's wife as personal representative of the estate. The defendant noticed and inquired if the client had passed away. The attorney replied that the client had died ("Yes-how ironic"), the first disclosure of that pertinent fact. The credit agency indicated that it was not bound by the settlement. The attorney's local counsel filed an action to enforce the agreement that led to a $7,500.00 payment to the widow.
A bar complaint was filed. The attorney falsely responded about when he learned of the client's death in his testimony in the bar case. The attorney was no stranger to bar discipline, having racked up seven prior sanctions since his 1994 admission. (Mike Frisch)
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