He was a lone operator. Practiced on his own. A wealthy man. Without a good reputation.
He represented a claimant involved in an accident who had sustained injuries. I was representing the other party’s insurer. Liability was not in dispute. My guy was at fault.
The lawyer was taking his sweet time in getting around to try and settle. I suspect he was trying to lead to me to believe his client’s injuries were that serious. Whatever the reason, he didn’t immediately try negotiating with me. I wasn’t going to push him, so my file sat in abeyance.
Until one day, I get a phone call from the lawyer. He said: “Mr. Brown, I’ve issued a Statement of Claim. However, I’m willing to negotiate a settlement. Can we meet and discuss it?” I told him I would be glad to meet in the coming days. Clearly not the answer he wanted; he insisted on a meeting that very afternoon. I can’t recall his reason, but he seemed anxious.
I reviewed my file and noticed the limitation period had just expired. From my experience, it wasn’t unusual for a lawyer to file a Statement of Claim before the limitation date to protect both himself and his client. However, as I mentioned earlier this particular lawyer was not too reputable. Before our meeting, I darted to the courthouse to confirm the Statement of Claim was filed, and he had. I asked the clerk to tell me what date exactly it was filed. He had filed it one day AFTER the limitation date! I asked if I could personally see that. Indeed, one day after.
I met with the lawyer as agreed. My first words were: “Joe, I can’t even talk to you. You let the limitation date go by.” Surprised, and seemingly annoyed he responded, “ What are you talking about? I filed the document in time, see.” He presented a copy of the Statement of Claim and sure enough the type written date was the day before the expiration date. Although, it looked suspicious, as if erased and carefully retyped? There were three copies of the document on the table. I reached over and snatched all three and examined the dates on each. He had shown me the top one, but the bottom two still had the original date! I pointed that out to him and got up to leave.
He then asked if I would discuss this my insurer. I said I would.
When I returned to the office, I called the claims manager. I explained my discovery. I can remember his response, but due the descriptive choice of his pointed words I shan’t repeat them! He did start his response with and in a sarcastic tone:“ Well, Isn’t that too bad…. Tell him….”
In conclusion, I don’t know if this was the final straw for this lawyer’s mismanagement of his business, but some time later he took his own life in his office.
How can a person win and yet lose ?? It happened. That will be answered in my next episode.