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Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Lorain Attorney Suspended for Losing Client’s Settlement Check

The Ohio Supreme Court today suspended a Lorain attorney for one year, with six months stayed, for losing one client’s settlement check and failing to provide competent representation in a legal malpractice lawsuit against another lawyer.

In a 6-1 per curiam opinion, the Court suspended Jeffrey H. Weir II, and conditioned his stay on the requirement that he prove $4,983 in restitution has been made to his former client within 60 days as well as submit to an assessment by the Ohio Lawyers Assistance Program (OLAP). Weir also was ordered to complete continuing legal education in office management and not to commit any further misconduct.

Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and Justices Sharon L. Kennedy, Patrick F. Fischer, R. Patrick DeWine, Michael P. Donnelly, and Melody J. Stewart joined the opinion. Justice Judith L. French concurred in part and dissented in part, stating she would not require the OLAP assessment.

Lawyer Faces Three Complaints
Today’s suspension is related to separate misconduct complaints brought against Weir by the Lorain County Bar Association and the Office of the Disciplinary Counsel. The Supreme Court placed him on an interim suspension in March after he failed to respond to a third disciplinary complaint, which is unrelated to the matter currently before the Court.

The bar association’s charges stem from a grievance filed by Jennifer Demyan, who hired Weir in December 2015 to assist in terminating a land-installment contract for property in Lorain County that she had entered into with sellers who live in West Virginia. In order to resolve the dispute, the sellers sent Weir a check for $4,983. Because Demyan believed she was entitled to more money, neither she nor Weir immediately attempted to cash the sellers’ check.

By June 2016, Demyan agreed to accept the money and informed Weir. Believing the original check was stale, Weir asked the sellers for a second check, which he received in August 2016. He notified Demyan of the check, and she instructed him to mail it to her.

Attorney Loses Check
Weir lost the check and then did not reply to five emails Demyan sent him in September and October asking about the payment. In November 2016, he told her that he could not locate the check and would ask the sellers for a third check. Weir then stopped communicating with Demyan, who advised him that she would file a grievance unless he complied with his commitment to obtain another settlement check.

In July 2017, she filed her complaint with the bar association, which sent two separate letters to Weir in August 2017 regarding the matter. Weir did not respond in writing to the bar association, but appeared at a grievance committee hearing. Shortly after the meeting, he located the missing check and contacted Demyan in December 2017 about it.

After Weir communicated with the sellers’ attorney, Demyan attempted to cash the check, but the bank refused to honor it. The sellers’ attorney noted they would not write a third check

Based on his handling of the matter, the bar association charged Weir with several violations of the rules governing the conduct of Ohio lawyers. The Board of Professional Conduct found Weir did not act with reasonable diligence in representing Demyan, failed to keep her reasonably informed of her case, did not promptly deliver property that Demyan was entitled to receive, and did not cooperate with a disciplinary investigation.

Lawyer Objects to Charges
Weir objected to the board’s report, particularly to the board’s conclusion that although he said he was willing to make restitution to Demyan, he “had made no attempt to do so.”

Weir argued he continued to look for the missing check after losing it and, after finding it, attempted to obtain payment for Demyan. He claimed that Demyan and the sellers’ attorney stopped communicating with him and he did not know the sellers refused to issue a third check. He assumed she had been paid, and that his efforts constituted “significant attempts” to make restitution.

The Court’s opinion stated it disagrees with Weir’s position, and noted that he indicated a willingness to pay restitution if Demyan had not received her money.

“Weir’s incorrect assumption” that Demyan had been paid the opinion stated, “does not change the fact that he admittedly made no attempt to pay Demyan restitution for the financial loss caused by his misconduct.”

Missed Filing Deadlines Leads to Sanction
The Court also sanctioned Weir based on a separate complaint against him brought by the disciplinary counsel. In February 2010, Edward and Nancy Medley were sued, and as part of the lawsuit, their attorney at the time identified one expert witness to support their claim.

Two years later, the Medleys replaced their lawyer with Weir, and the trial court later entered a judgment against the Medleys.

In 2014, Weir filed a legal malpractice lawsuit against the Medleys’ former attorney, arguing the attorney selected an expert who was not competent to provide the necessary testimony. The trial court dismissed the case, finding Weir missed the statute of limitations for filing the lawsuit. Weir appealed the decision, but missed the deadline for filing an appeal. At his disciplinary hearing, Weir admitted he was not familiar with some of the case law applicable to filing a legal malpractice case and he miscalculated the dates to file an appeal.

The board found Weir failed to provide competent representation to the Medleys and did not act with reasonable diligence.

2018-1447. Lorain Cty. Bar Assn. v. Weir, Slip Opinion No. 2019-Ohio-2151.

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