Monday, October 18, 2021

Reciprocal Sanction

The Rhode Island Supreme Court imposed reciprocal discipline of a censure based on a like Massachusetts sanction

From September 2016 to January 2020, respondent was in-house litigation counsel to a medical company. In December 2017, one of that client’s wholly owned subsidiaries was sued in Georgia for personal injury, and the matter was assigned to respondent.

A trial in the case was scheduled to begin on March 11, 2019. After settlement discussions began in earnest, respondent purported to authorize the client’s outside litigation counsel to settle the case for $250,000. The respondent, however, had failed to obtain required authorization from the management of the self-insured client.

On March 6, 2019, five days before the scheduled start of the trial, the plaintiff in the litigation agreed to the proposed settlement. The plaintiff signed the client’s standard release on March 21, 2019, but respondent realized that she did not have management’s approval. Instead of obtaining that approval, she misrepresented to outside counsel that payment was delayed, but forthcoming.

When payment was not made, the plaintiff took steps to enforce the settlement. The respondent then told outside counsel, falsely, that there was a problem with “the insurer.” A motion brought by the plaintiff to enforce them settlement was granted in May 2019, and when payment was still not made, the client was twice held in contempt. The respondent continued to misrepresent to outside counsel that payment was delayed, but forthcoming.

In September 2019, the plaintiff obtained a judgment against the client to collect on the settlement and eventually filed suit directly against the client and its insurer to collect the funds.

After respondent terminated her employment with the client company in January 2020, the client learned of and paid the settlement, together with interest, attorneys’ fees, costs, and contempt sanctions.

Sanction

This stipulation also recognized several mitigating factors relevant to the severity of the disciplinary sanction agreed to by the parties. The parties also noted extraordinary personal circumstances in mitigation described in an impounded memo that respondent submitted to the BBO with the stipulation. The stipulation noted that respondent had no prior disciplinary history, had acknowledged full responsibility for the harm caused to her client, and recognized that her extenuating personal issues explained, but did not excuse, her conduct.

(Mike Frisch)

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legal_profession/2021/10/the-rhode-island-supreme-court-imposed-reciprocal-discipline-based-on-a-massachusetts-sanction-from-september-2016-to-januar.html

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