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Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Public Reprimand No. 2007-20



Robert M. Duzan

Order (public reprimand) entered by the Board July 25, 2007.

SUMMARY1


On August 30, 2001, the respondent filed suit in the superior court on behalf of a client who was injured when she fell down a flight of stairs in a parking garage. The respondent assumed, without otherwise investigating the circumstances, that Harvard Pilgrim HealthCare was entirely responsible for maintenance of the parking garage but the garage was in fact leased to Harvard Vanguard Medical, which had at least potential responsibility for maintenance of the stairs. Therefore, the respondent named only Harvard Pilgrim HealthCare as a defendant.

On January 8, 2002, defense counsel filed an answer to the complaint. The answer admitted that Harvard Pilgrim owned the garage, but denied that it was in control of the garage and responsible for the maintenance of the stairs.

On January 25, 2002, the respondent and defense counsel agreed that the respondent would dismiss the complaint against Harvard Pilgrim if counsel could provide proof that Harvard Pilgrim was not responsible for maintaining the garage and the area in question. The respondent and defense counsel agreed that neither party would initiate any discovery until there was a resolution of this issue.

On March 26, 2002, defense counsel sent the respondent an affidavit from the defendantís facilities coordinator in which he swore that Harvard Pilgrim was not responsible for the maintenance of the garage or the stairs. The respondent did not take any substantive action to verify the truth of the coordinatorís statements or otherwise investigate the ownership and control of the premises. The respondent also did not further communicate with defense counsel.

On May 24, 2002, defense counsel served interrogatories and a request for production of documents on the respondent. The respondent took no substantive action to respond to the discovery requests. Defense counsel therefore filed an application with the court for entry of final judgment of dismissal for failure to respond to the discovery requests. The respondent did not notify the client of the application for final judgment or take any other action to respond to the application.

On September 17, 2002, the court dismissed the clientís complaint with prejudice due to the respondentís failure to respond to the defendantís discovery requests. When the respondent received the notice of dismissal, he contacted defense counsel and requested that she assent to a motion to revoke the dismissal. Defense counsel refused the respondentís request, and the respondent took no further action in the matter. Over the next six months, the respondent failed to respond to his clientís repeated requests for information about the status of her case.

The respondentís failure to determine the appropriate parties to sue and his lack of diligence in representing his client, including his failure to respond to discovery requests or to address the application for final judgment of dismissal, violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.1, 1.2(a) and 1.3.

The respondentís failure to respond to his clientís reasonable requests for information about the status of her case violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.4(a) and (b).

This matter came before the Board of Bar Overseers on a stipulation of facts and disciplinary violations and a joint recommendation for discipline by public reprimand. On July 9, 2007, the Board accepted the partiesí recommendation and imposed a public reprimand.


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



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