Sunday, May 29, 2011

Birmingham lawyer, client sue three lawyers over solicitations after crash

A Birmingham lawyer and his client, who was injured in an April vehicle crash, have filed a civil lawsuit claiming that within days of the wreck people representing three other lawyers tried to illegally solicit him for his personal injury case.

Alabama law and state bar rules prohibit lawyers from approaching someone to solicit a case or hiring someone to solicit cases on their behalf.

The lawsuit was filed May 13 by the law firm of Wettermark, Holland & Keith on behalf of Robert Barber, a lawyer, and Barber's client David Wayne Wright.

The lawsuit names as defendants lawyers Robert J. Hayes, Christopher S. Linton, J. Danny Hackney, their three law firms, and four other people -- named and unnamed -- who the lawsuit claims approached Wright on behalf of the firms.

Hackney, in an email, declined comment. Hayes in an email said they have not had an adequate amount of time to study the allegations made against them and would respond through their counsel in due time. Linton referred questions to his attorney, Joe Stott, who declined comment.

Efforts to reach a couple of the others named in the lawsuit, who allegedly solicited on behalf of the attorneys, were unsuccessful.

An official with the Alabama Bar declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Wright was injured in a crash April 25, according to the lawsuit. After the crash Wright contacted Barber to seek his advice and counsel about the wreck, the lawsuit claims.

On April 27 and April 28 Wright got unsolicited calls, followed up by visits, from people claiming to represent three law firms and trying to solicit his case, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit claims that the three lawyers violated state law by giving or offering to give a valuable consideration to another person as an inducement to placing in his hands, or in the hands of their law firms, a personal injury case or that they employed, or offered to employ, individuals to search for or procure clients for themselves and firms.

Among the things the lawsuit seeks is an order to prohibit the defendants from similar activities, refund all fees or monetary benefits they accrued as a result of their illegal activities, and punitive or exemplary damages "to deter the defendants and other similarly minded attorneys and individuals from engaging in the unethical and unlawful conduct which is the subject of this action."

"Mr. Barber is a young lawyer trying to build a law practice. .¤.¤. But I think he shares our view that we as lawyers have an obligation to try to stamp out this illegal and unethical conduct," James Wettermark, attorney representing Barber and Wright, said Thursday.

Wettermark said that a police incident report was filed on the first contact, but police were not present at the two other meetings. Wright did not sign the contracts at the meetings, he said.

No charges have been filed against anyone regarding the incidents.

John Carroll, dean of the Samford University School of Law, said allegations of unethical solicitation happens with some frequency across the country. But one lawyer filing a lawsuit against others over the issue is "very unusual," he said.

By Kent Faulk, The Birmingham News,



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