FOR THE RESPONDENT FOR THE INDIANA SUPREME COURT
Gilbert King, Jr. Donald R. Lundberg, Executive Secretary
700 W. Ridge Road Robert C. Shook, Staff Attorney
Gary, IN 46408
115 West Washington Street, Ste. 1060
Indianapolis, IN 46204
IN THE MATTER OF )
) Case No. 45S00-9710-DI-562
WILLIAM R. NORMAN )
The respondent, William R. Norman, has admitted to violating an agreement to pay his
client's doctor out of a settlement from a personal injury lawsuit. In this opinion, we approve an
agreement between the respondent and the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission which
calls for our reprimand of the respondent for that professional misconduct.
The respondent was admitted to the bar of this state in 1974, and, therefore, is subject to the disciplinary authority of this Court. He and the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission have tendered a Statement of Circumstances and Conditional Agreement for Discipline which asserts the following undisputed facts.
In 1993, the respondent was hired to represent a client in a personal injury lawsuit arising
from the client's fall in a grocery store in Gary. The client's family physician treated the client for
his injuries from that fall. The physician, the respondent and the client signed a letter of
protection. That document required the respondent to withhold from any recovery in the lawsuit
sufficient monies to pay any sums owed the physician by the client.
The respondent settled the lawsuit on behalf of his client for $37,500. At the time of the settlement, the client owed his physician $3,026. Instead of paying the doctor from the proceeds as required by the letter of protection, the respondent paid the $3,026 directly to the client. The client agreed in writing that he would pay the doctor after deducting what the doctor had been paid by the client's medical insurance provider. However, the client died without paying the $3,026 to the physician, although the respondent and the client's widow later made arrangements to pay that bill.
The parties agree that the respondent, through such conduct, violated Ind.Professional Conduct Rule 1.15(b). That rule provides:
Upon receiving funds or other property in which the client or third person has an interest, a lawyer shall promptly notify the client or third person. Except as stated in this rule or otherwise permitted by law or by agreement with the client, a lawyer shall promptly deliver to the client or third person any funds or other property that the client or third person is entitled to receive and, upon request by the client or third person, shall promptly render a full accounting regarding such property.
We agree, and hereby find, that the respondent violated Prof.Cond.R. 1.15(b) by failing to promptly deliver to his client's physician $3,026 from the settlement proceeds in accordance with the written agreement between the respondent, the client and the physician. Having found misconduct, we must determine the appropriate sanction.
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