Westerville Attorney Suspended
The Ohio Supreme Court today suspended from the practice of law a Westerville attorney who missed key deadlines for filing a personal injury lawsuit then misled his client to cover up his mistakes.
In a unanimous per curiam opinion, the Supreme Court suspended Darwin R. Roseman for one year with six months stayed on conditions. One condition Roseman must meet to be reinstated is to resolve the $135,000 malpractice judgment his ex-client secured.
Suspension Stems from Single Case
The Columbus Bar Association filed a complaint against Roseman, charging him with neglect, dishonesty, and engaging in a pattern of misconduct based on his handling of Michael Williams’ personal injury case.
In 2007, Williams retained Roseman to represent him, and Roseman waited almost two years to the last applicable day of the statute of limitations to file Williams’ lawsuit. The defendant’s insurance carrier requested information from Roseman about Williams’ injuries, but Roseman did not send it nor did he respond to discovery requests. In 2010, the trial court ordered Roseman to comply with the discovery request within seven days, but instead Roseman filed a notice to voluntarily dismiss the case without prejudice with the intent of refiling it.
Williams complained that Roseman failed to communicate with him about the case and only told him he was planning a “legal maneuver” to buy more time, but not that he intended to dismiss the lawsuit. Roseman then notified the opposing counsel he would work with the opponent’s insurance company to settle the lawsuit, but again failed to respond the insurer’s request for injury information.
Roseman then missed the one-year deadline to refile the case, which barred Williams from suing to recover for his injuries.
Roseman Claims He Was Discharged
At an attorney-discipline hearing based on Williams’ complaint, Roseman testified he was discharged by Williams at some point before the refiling deadline. Williams denied discharging Roseman. He said after the refiling deadline, he received two letters from Roseman claiming Williams had discharged him.
Williams provided letters that Roseman dated weeks before the deadline, but were actually sent four or five days after the deadline informing Williams he needed to get a new attorney and file his case or forever lose his right to sue. Williams testified he was upset and confused that Roseman informed him after it was too late to refile, and that he sued Roseman for malpractice and obtained a $135,000 judgment.
A Board of Professional Conduct panel found Williams’ version of events to be more credible, and the board found Roseman violated several rules governing the behavior of lawyers, including failing to promptly inform the client of decisions that require the client’s consent, failing to keep the client reasonably informed about the status of a case, and engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.
Court Considers Sanction
The Court accepted two mitigating factors when considering the sanction for Roseman’s violations – that he had no prior discipline and he cooperated with the disciplinary proceedings. The Court found the aggravating factor of Roseman acting with a dishonest and selfish motive.
After reviewing past sanctions of other lawyers who engaged in similar misconduct to Roseman’s, the Court approved the board recommendation to suspend Roseman for one year, but stay six months on the conditions that he commit no further misconduct. Also upon reinstatement, he must submit to one year of monitored probation. In addition, the Court ruled before Roseman can be reinstated, he must resolve the judgment imposed against him in Williams’ malpractice case.
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