Mass.gov
   
Mass.Gov home Mass.gov  home get things done agencies Search Mass.Gov


NO. PR 99-07

IN RE: NORMAN W. HUGGINS

Last known office address:
128 Blue Hills Pkwy.
Milton, MA 02186

ORDER OF PUBLIC REPRIMAND


This matter came before the Board on a Petition for Discipline and a Stipulation of the Parties waiving hearing and requesting that the matter be resolved by the imposition of a public reprimand. On June 14, 1999, the Board voted to accept the stipulation of the parties and their joint recommendation to administer a public reprimand to Mr. Huggins without further proceedings before a hearing Committee. A summary of the charges giving rise to the reprimand is attached to this order.

Whereupon, pursuant to Supreme Judicial Court Rule 4:01, Sect. 8(2), and the Rules of the Board of Bar Overseers, Sect. 3.57, it is ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that NORMAN W. HUGGINS, Esq. be and hereby is PUBLICLY REPRIMANDED.

By Richard M. Zielinski

Board of Bar Overseers

Administered: July 20, 1999

SUMMARY1

On February 13, 1995, a client retained the respondent to represent him in a personal injury case then pending in the Boston Municipal Court against a corporation that owned a bar in Saugus and further to evaluate and commence related civil claims against the town for damages.

The client claimed that, on February 14, 1993, he was a patron on the premises of the bar and that while on the premises he was stabbed with a knife after being chased and attacked by another patron. The client was seriously injured with multiple stab wounds. The pending Boston Municipal Court lawsuit alleged in part that the owner and manager of the premises had failed to maintain adequate security and had served the assailant at a time he was known to be intoxicated.

At the time of the stabbing, witnesses identified the assailant and informed Saugus police officers on duty at the scene. The police apprehended the person identified, but after briefly talking with him, failed either to detain him or to learn his identity.

On February 14, 1995, the respondent sent a presentment letter to counsel for the Town of Saugus under the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act, alleging in part that the failure of the police officers to investigate, detain or learn the identity of the assailant constituted negligence.

On April 14, 1995, the respondent filed his notice of appearance in the Boston Municipal Court litigation. On November 5, 1995, the day before the case was called for trial, the defendant corporation filed for bankruptcy protection, resulting in the automatic stay of that litigation. The defendant carried no insurance, was subject to a large number of prior pending claims, and was judgment proof. Accordingly, the respondent determined that the claim against that defendant was not worth pursuing.

On February 13, 1996, the respondent filed litigation in the Suffolk Superior Court against the Town of Saugus, its police department and various police officers alleged to have been at the scene. The respondent also named as a defendant a corporation that acquired the name, goodwill and lease rights to the premises. The theory of liability as to the corporate defendant was an allegation that it was the alter ego of the bankrupt corporation and accordingly should assume its liabilities.

On May 29, 1996, the Superior Court litigation was dismissed for failure of the respondent to return service of the summons to the court within the period of time (ninety days) prescribed by Superior Court Standing Order 1-88. The respondent had not attempted any service of process on any defendant within the ninety-day time period. Shortly thereafter, the respondent received notice of the dismissal from the court. In June 1996, the respondent orally informed his client that the case had been dismissed. On August 29, 1996, the client wrote to the respondent and requested the respondent to vacate the dismissal. The respondent did not reply to this correspondence. On September 2, 1996, the client wrote a second letter to the respondent requesting the respondent to vacate the dismissal. The respondent did not reply to this correspondence either.

On January 16, 1997, the client complained to Bar Counsel. The respondent did not reply to Bar Counsel's inquiries, necessitating the issuance of a subpoena to compel his appearance. A subpoena was served and the respondent appeared on the date and time directed and thereafter fully cooperated with Bar Counsel.

The respondent's failure to timely serve process, his failure to timely take remedial action after the case was dismissed, and his failure to adequately communicate with his client regarding the status of his case, constituted neglect of a legal matter entrusted to him in violation of Canon Six, DR 6-101(A)(3). The respondent's failure to cooperate with Bar Counsel was in violation of Canon One, DR 1-102(A)(5), and S.J.C. Rule 4:01 Sect. 3.

In aggravation, the respondent received a private reprimand in 1990 as a result of three instances of neglect of clients and cases, as well as failure to cooperate with Bar Counsel.

In mitigation, the client's claims had little likelihood of success on the merits. The neglect occurred during a period in which the respondent was having personal problems, for which he since commenced counseling.

The 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. The Board accepted the parties' recommendation and imposed a public reprimand on July 20, 1999.

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



BBO/OBC Privacy Policy. Please direct all questions to webmaster@massbbo.org.
© 2001. Board of Bar Overseers. Office of Bar Counsel. All rights reserved.