Our client, Edna, slipped on grease at a Denny’s restaurant in May of 2015. Despite Edna and her husband asking the manager for the restaurant’s insurance information, they refused to provide it.
Later, Edna discovered she suffered a fractured vertebra and a sprained wrist in the accident. Even after this, Denny’s refused to take responsibility, so Edna and her husband took action by hiring another lawyer, Ms. K.
Unfortunately, that legal representation did not go well for Edna. The following events happened to Edna through Ms. K’s representation:
- Ms. K refused to discuss the case with Edna
- Ms. K never talked to her on the phone and would not even return a single phone call
- No other lawyers from the firm met with Edna
- Ms. K did not even try negotiating a settlement of Edna’s case until six months after Edna finished her treatment
- Ms. K sent a demand letter without Edna’s authority to do so or approval of an amount
- The claims representative never actually got the demand letter because Ms. K never actually sent it
- In fact, the claims rep never spoke with Ms. K or a lawyer at her office
- Ms. K kept a lien in the case for over $4,000 – but refused to speak with me
- Edna, the claims rep, and I were only able to talk to Ms. K’s paralegal
In December 2016, Edna came to me. She was bewildered and furious with the legal system. She was aggravated with the lack of assistance she received from Ms. K. She happens to go to church with the mother of a friend of mine and asked for her help. She needed an attorney who could provide her with the representation that she deserves. Once we were able to get a copy of the case file, we settled Edna’s case within three months. Ms. K had it for a year and a half.
We were able to get $41,500 for Edna this is great because she had less than $15,000 in medical expenses and had previously fractured her vertebrae.
Still, Ms. K pursued Edna with an attorney’s lien on the case of about $4,159.86 even though she did the bare minimum and did nothing to work towards this settlement. This was not right. Edna deserved the compensation she is entitled to.
According to Missouri law, if a client fires a lawyer, the lawyer can receive compensation for the amount of work they put into the case and their hourly rate. When we reviewed the invoice that Ms. K submitted saw several irregularities that suggested she exaggerated her invoice/lien.
For example, she claimed she spent a lot of time writing form letters, negotiating lien reductions that paralegals usually do in five minutes, writing and sending demand letters (like the one the claims rep never received), and reviewing insignificant, pro-forma Medicare documents.
We told Ms. K’s paralegal this was not correct. We spoke to the paralegal because, like Edna, Ms. K would not speak with us. We offered to pay $1,000 because Ms. K’s office did do some work and did incur expenses of about $250.
I have never written about something like this. I try to treat other lawyers fairly if I get a file letter. But, I cannot stand by Ms. K’s conduct. Her behavior portrays lawyers in a bad light.
As per the Missouri ethics rules recommending using the Missouri Bar’s Fee Dispute Resolution Committee to resolve liens, we arbitrated the case before a volunteer.
And guess what. Ms. K did not even show up at the hearing to get her fees. The mediator agreed with me and gave her exactly what I had offered 9 months earlier.
Even after all this Edna, the claims rep, and I have never actually spoken to Ms. K.