Tuesday, December 4, 2018
The Rhode Island Supreme Court suspended an attorney for failure to make full restitution and submit a plan for 25 hours of community service as the court had ordered as a sanction
She paid all but $50.75.
The facts giving rise to this proceeding, as found by the Board, are as follows. Kristine Foster (Foster) and Stephen Lucas (Lucas) purchased a residence in Riverside, Rhode Island, in September 2014. As a result of a clogged sewer line, sewage backed up into the home, requiring remediation work. Foster and Lucas hired JDM Enterprises, Inc., d/b/a ServePro of Providence (ServePro), to perform the required cleaning. Foster allegedly advised the ServePro representative that, due to a pre-existing respiratory ailment, she could not tolerate the use of any chemical cleaning agents in her residence—an allegation denied by ServePro. ServePro performed the cleaning service and billed Foster and Lucas for the work performed. Foster and Lucas refused to pay the invoice, claiming that Foster was physically injured by ServePro’s use of chemical cleaning agents while performing the work.
ServePro initiated a book account action in the District Court seeking payment for the services rendered. The respondent agreed to represent Foster and Lucas in defending the action, and further agreed to represent Foster in her claim for personal injuries against ServePro.
However, respondent failed to communicate to Foster and/or Lucas in writing the scope of the representation to be provided or the basis or rate of any fees or expenses to be charged, in violation of Article V, Rule 1.5 of the Supreme Court Rules of Professional Conduct, which mandates the use of written retainer agreements.
The attorney failed to provide competent representation, failed to communicate and
Most egregiously, respondent, without the knowledge or consent of Foster or Lucas, unilaterally entered into a stipulation with counsel for ServePro agreeing that judgment would enter against Foster and Lucas in the amount of $3,110.94 on ServePro’s book account claim. The respondent’s failure to advise her clients and obtain their consent prior to settling their case violated Rule 1.2. Further exacerbating this violation, respondent did not inform Foster or Lucas for several months that she had stipulated to this adverse judgment.
Despite a 29-year discipline - free career, she failed to comply with court orders in the bar case
However, respondent has failed to substantially comply with our Order adopting the Board’s recommendation, and has provided this Court with no explanation for her failure to do so, despite our specific warning that her failure to comply could result in the imposition of a more serious sanction. Also, respondent’s unexplained failure to appear before this Court on her own behalf raises a serious concern about her present ability to adequately represent clients.
Accordingly, we deem it appropriate to impose a more serious sanction. We hereby suspend the respondent, Patricia M. Watson, from the practice of law in this state, effective thirty (30) days from the date of this Order, and until further order of this Court. Forthwith, the respondent shall make arrangements to obtain new counsel for her clients, or return any active client files to these clients, within this thirty (30) day period. The respondent shall not assume the representation of any new clients or the representation of existing clients on any new matters during this period.