Tuesday, November 8, 2011
The South Carolina Supreme Court has imposed a public reprimand of an attorney peredicated on the following facts:
In November 2009, respondent agreed to assist Client in recovering funds from her former employer. Client believed she was due funds from unused vacation time. In a meeting with Client's former employer, respondent learned that, pursuant to company policy, Client was not owed any money for unused vacation time.
Over the next year, Client regularly called respondent's office requesting updates regarding her claim. Respondent assured Client that the matter was progressing even though respondent knew the former employer denied any liability and that Client did not have a viable claim.
On December 17, 2010, respondent wrote Client explaining he had an offer of $592.32 representing 49.36 hours at $12.00 per hour. Additionally, the letter stated respondent had over two hours of work on the case, but he was willing to reduce his fee to $150.00 so Client's total recovery would be $442.32. This letter contained false information because respondent had not pursued the matter beyond his initial meeting with the former employer and had not received a settlement offer. The letter requested Client advise respondent if she would accept the offer.
When respondent had not heard from Client by December 22, 2010, he sent her another letter. In this undated letter, respondent advised Client of the same offer and his reduction in fee. Respondent also noted that he knew Client would like to have the money by Christmas.
Upon her receipt of the letter in mid-December 2010, Client called respondent and accepted the purported offer. Despite Client's prompt response to respondent's letter, respondent did not communicate with Client again for almost two months. On February 18, 2011, respondent wrote to Client apologizing for the delay and providing her with a check in the amount of $442.32 written on his general account. Respondent represents he paid personal funds to Client because he knew she needed money.
Even when motivated by a desire to help the client financially, lack of diligence and candor can result in public discipline. (Mike Frisch)