Supreme Court Revises Restitution Order in Discipline Case
The Supreme Court of Ohio today finalized the restitution recipients and amounts owed by a former Columbus attorney who was disciplined in 2012.
On October 9, 2012, the Supreme Court imposed an indefinite suspension against the law license of Stephen M. Weiss for his misconduct arising from his representation of John Lilley in a personal-injury claim and for failing to cooperate in the ensuing disciplinary investigation. The court ordered Weiss to make $36,333.93 in restitution to Lilley. Weiss asked the court to reconsider its decision because of a pending subrogation claim by Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield, which sought reimbursement from the responsible party for a claim it already paid.
The court granted Weiss’s motion, remanded the matter to the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline to make a restitution recommendation, and ordered the restitution amount to be held in escrow by Lilley’s attorney, Gregory P. Barwell, pending the resolution of the case.
After learning that Weiss had only $30,296.97 in his client trust account and that Barwell had negotiated Anthem’s original subrogation interest of $32,040.60 down to $18,000, the board recommended that $18,000 in restitution be made to Anthem and $18,333.93 to Lilley.
“At the conclusion of this matter, Barwell will forward $18,000 to Anthem and return the remainder of the funds held in escrow – $12,296.97 – less his attorney fees to Lilley,” the opinion states.
“The board now has adopted the parties’ stipulations regarding the distribution of the $30,296.97 currently held by Barwell and recommends that Weiss should be ordered to make restitution of $6,086.96 to Lilley, which will result in a total restitution award of $36,333.93 in accordance with our October 9, 2012 order.”
The court adopted the board’s recommendation. The court also noted that payment of the full amount of restitution or reimbursement to the Clients’ Security Fund for the full amount of all claims to Lilley is a condition of any future reinstatement.
In the original case, the court found that Weiss received and deposited in his client trust account a settlement check from Lilley’s insurance company for $98,580. Pursuant to his fee agreement with Lilley, Weiss was entitled to a contingent fee of 33 percent of the settlement or $32,860. Instead of distributing the remaining proceeds of $65,720 to his client and his creditors, however, Weiss made payments to the client and two medical service providers totaling only $29,386, kept the remainder of the settlement, and did not return Lilley’s phone calls requesting payment of the balance he was owed.
Based on sworn testimony by Lilley and his collections attorney and information obtained through a subpoena of Weiss’s bank records, the board conducted default proceedings and concluded that Weiss had violated multiple state disciplinary rules including those that require an attorney to promptly pay or deliver funds to which a client is entitled, and that prohibit conduct involving fraud, deceit, dishonesty, or misrepresentation; conduct that reflects adversely on an attorney’s fitness to practice law; and failure to cooperate in a disciplinary investigation.
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