Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Parma Attorney Indefinitely Suspended for Neglecting Client Matters

The Supreme Court of Ohio has indefinitely suspended a Parma attorney and ordered him to pay $16,410 in restitution to former clients for failing to do the legal work they paid him to do.

In a unanimous per curiam opinion, the Supreme Court ruled that Gary Vick committed several ethical rule violations when neglecting the legal matters of six clients and failing to cooperate in three disciplinary investigations. The Court stated that Vick’s conduct was grounds for disbarment, but because of his 20-year record of practicing law without any prior disciplinary complaints, an indefinite suspension was appropriate.

Attorney’s Misconduct Leads to Client Being Fined by Court
The Office of Disciplinary Counsel filed a complaint against Vick with the Board of Professional Conduct based on Vick’s representation of clients between 2018 and 2020.

In 2018, Sean Griffin hired Vick to represent him in a civil case regarding vehicle repairs. Vick filedlawsuit on Griffin’s behalf in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court. The court notified Vick and the attorney for the auto body shop of a January 2019 case management conference.

Vick did not inform Griffin of the conference and did not appear at it. The court dismissed the case without prejudice . Vick refiled the complaint without notifying Griffin that the court dismissed the original case. Vick attended a case conference at which the trial court ordered the parties to complete discovery by May 2019.

The body shop’s attorney sent Vick questions for Griffin to answer, as well as requests for documents and a notice to take Griffin’s deposition. Vick did not tell Griffin he received the documents or the requests. Vick did not respond to the discovery request, and neither he nor Griffin appeared for the deposition.

The shop’s attorney asked the trial court to dismiss the case with prejudice, or force Vick to comply with the discovery requests. The shop’s attorney also sought sanctions against Griffin for not responding to the discovery requests.

The court ordered Vick to comply with discovery. The day after he was supposed to provide the shop’s attorney with the materials, he sent an email providing some of the requested information. The shop’s attorney told Vick the responses were incomplete, and Vick promised to provide the missing information. Vick did not follow up.

The shop’s attorney again requested that the case be dismissed because of Vick’s lack of cooperation. Vick then voluntarily dismissed the case without Griffin’s knowledge or consent. The court set a hearing date on the request for sanctions.

Vick did not inform Griffin of the hearing, but Griffin learned about it from another source and attended. At the hearing, Vick apologized, noting he had some “very significant family issues” that interfered with his ability to work on the case. The trial judge told Vick there were a number of ways he could have “stopped the bleeding,” but instead of taking action he “just chose not to stop it.”

The trial court ordered Vick and Griffin to pay $3,385 in attorney fees and costs associated with his failure to cooperate. Vick appealed the trial court’s decision to the Eighth District Court of Appeals on Griffin’s behalf, without telling him. The Eighth District affirmed the trial court’s judgment.

Griffin sued Vick for malpractice. In October 2019, Griffin obtained a default judgment against Vick for $42,790. At the time of Vick’s disciplinary hearing two years later, he had not yet paid the judgment.

The Board of Professional Conduct found Vick’s representation violated several ethics rules, including disobeying a court order to complete discovery, and failing to reasonably consult with Griffin.

Lawyers Fails to Provide Services
The disciplinary counsel’s complaint against Vick also noted he accepted retainers ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 from a couple and four individual clients. For example, Allison Rerko paid Vick a $5,000 flat fee to represent her in a divorce. For more than a year, Rerko received little to no response from Vick about her case. During the disciplinary investigation, Vick admitted he performed no legal work for Rerko and did not return her payment.

The board found Vick communicated periodically, but not consistently, with his clients, often just informing them he was busy in court. He frequently promised he would call or meet with them later, but failed to follow through on those promises.

The disciplinary counsel sent letters of inquiry to Vick regarding grievances filed by three of his clients. Vick failed to provide written responses to the grievances and did not comply with subpoenas ordering him to appear for a deposition.

The board found he violated several ethics rules by failing to perform legal work, failing to communicate with his clients, failing to properly handle client funds, and failing to refund unearned fees. The board also found that in one of those cases, Vick engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.

The Court ordered Vick to pay $16,410 in restitution to his clients, including $3,385 to Griffin and $5,000 to Rerko, within the next 90 days. To be reinstated, Vick must also complete 12 hours of continuing legal education in law office and client trust account management, and commit no further misconduct. He must also pay the costs of the disciplinary proceedings.

2021-1515. Disciplinary Counsel v. Vick, Slip Opinion No. 2022-Ohio-2541.

Please note: Opinion summaries are prepared by the Office of Public Information for the general public and news media. Opinion summaries are not prepared for every opinion, but only for noteworthy cases. Opinion summaries are not to be considered as official headnotes or syllabi of court opinions. The full text of this and other court opinions are available online.

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