Mass. BBO Admonition No. 13-02: Massachusetts Attorney Disciplined in Legal Ethics Matter

The Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers (“BBO”)  has issued an admonition of an attorney after finding that he violated the Massachusetts Rules of Professional Conduct.  The attorney represented the victim of an auto accident, who was disabled as a result of the accident.  The attorney filed the lawsuit timely, but failed to effect service, which resulted in dismissal of the case.  The attorney was able to have the case reinstated, but it was dismissed again after the attorney failed to respond to discovery requests.  Over one year later, the attorney moved to vacate the dismissal, but the motion was denied as untimely.

The BBO held that the attorney’s failure to diligently pursue the client’s case was a violation of Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.1 and 1.3.  The attorney also failed to inform the client of either dismissal and did not respond to the client’s requests for status updates, as required by Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.4(a) and (b).

The client only learned that the case had been dismissed after contacting the court himself.  As a result, the client retained successor counsel and requested that the original attorney forward the client’s file to the new lawyer.  The attorney failed to send the file or respond to the client’s written request, which constituted violation of the Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.16(d).  The client pursued a legal malpractice claim against the attorney, which was resolved by the settlement.

The attorney had no prior record of discipline and cooperated with the client in the malpractice action.  The attorney was admonished by the BBO for his conduct.

Decision:  Admonition 13-02

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