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Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Public Reprimand No. 2004-17


Order (public reprimand) entered by the Board October 7, 2004.


In 1999 and 2000, two women who had been injured in an automobile accident received treatment from a chiropractor. When the women’s insurance company refused to pay bills totaling $999 that the chiropractor submitted for payment, the chiropractor retained the respondent to collect the outstanding fees from the insurance company.

In January 2001, the respondent prepared and filed two separate complaints on behalf of his client alleging breach of contract by the insurance company pursuant to G.L. c. 90, § 34M. The respondent also prepared for each complaint a set of interrogatories, a request for admissions, a request for production of documents, and a statement of damages. In preparing these pleadings, the respondent utilized boilerplate forms that he had created and used in previous similar litigation against automobile insurance companies.

In June 2001, the respondent and the attorney for the insurance company agreed to a settlement on behalf of the respondent’s clients in each of the two cases the respondent had brought. They filed agreements for judgment, which provided that the insurance company would pay all of the withheld benefits plus court costs in each case. The parties further agreed to submit the issue of the amount of attorney’s fees to which the respondent would be entitled in each of the two cases for determination by the court.

G.L. Chapter 90, §34M, provides, in pertinent part: “If the unpaid party recovers a judgment for any amount due and payable by the insurer, the court shall assess against the insurer in addition thereto costs and reasonable attorney’s fees.” In July 2001, the respondent filed motions for assessment of attorney fees in each of the two cases. The respondent attached to each motion an itemized bill describing the work he had done, the time involved, and the date the time was expended. The respondent also attached to each motion an affidavit in which he represented that the bill was an accurate representation of the time he had spent in the prosecution of the case. The bills for each matter were identical in every respect except for the name of the insured and the file number. The respondent’s total bill for each matter was $2,720, representing exactly 13.6 hours of the respondent’s time at the rate of $200 per hour.

The respondent believed that the bills were accurate in that they represented a record of the time he had originally spent in researching and developing the forms he used for his pleadings. The respondent’s bills did not, however, reflect the actual time the respondent had spent on each of the two cases he brought on behalf of the chiropractor. Therefore, the respondent unintentionally misrepresented in his affidavit that the bills accurately reflected his actual time.

At a hearing on the two motions for assessment of attorney fees, the respondent acknowledged to the court that he had not spent the time stated in his bills drafting the pleadings he filed with the court for the two cases and that these were modified pleadings he had created and used in prior cases for which he had already received compensation. The court granted the respondent $600 in attorney’s fees for each case for four hours of work for modifying his prior pleadings, negotiating with opposing counsel, and appearing in court in each matter at the rate of $150 per hour.

The respondent violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 8.4(c) (lawyer shall not engage in conduct involving dishonesty, deceit, or misrepresentation) and (d) (lawyer shall not engage in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice) by filing affidavits in which he negligently misrepresented that his bills represented the actual time he had spent on the two cases. The respondent received a public reprimand for this misconduct.

1 Compiled by the Board of Bar Overseers based on the record of proceedings before the Board.

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