STATEWIDE GRIEVANCE COMMITTEE
Wesley Edwards, Complainant vs. Alberto V. Zappala, Respondent
Grievance Complaint #01-0060
Pursuant to Practice Book §2-35, the undersigned, duly-appointed reviewing committee of the Statewide Grievance Committee, conducted a hearing at the Superior Court, 1061 Main Street, Bridgeport, Connecticut on July 3, 2002. The hearing addressed the record of the complaint filed on July 18, 2001, and the probable cause determination filed by the New Haven Judicial District, Geographical Areas 7 & 8 Grievance Panel on October 23, 2001, finding that there existed probable cause that the Respondent violated Rules 1.3, 1.8(e) and 1.15 of the Rules of Professional Conduct.
Notice of the hearing was mailed to the Complainant and to the Respondent on May 30, 2002. Neither the Complainant nor the Respondent appeared at the hearing. As such, this reviewing committee considered the matter on the written record.
This reviewing committee finds the following facts by clear and convincing evidence:
The Complainant retained the Respondent in 1998 or 1999 to file a personal injury action on his behalf based on a slip and fall injury that he sustained. The Respondent never filed suit on the Complainant's behalf; however, the Respondent did advance $3000 to the Complainant.
This reviewing committee also considered the following:
The Complainant maintained that the Respondent failed to remit the proceeds of the settlement from his personal injury case to him. Additionally, the Complainant believed that the $3000 was part of the settlement. The Respondent, however, acknowledged that he did not file suit on the Complainant's behalf and that there was no settlement, given that there was no insurance and liability was poor. Finally, the Respondent admitted that he advanced $3000 to the Complainant.
This reviewing committee finds the following violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct by clear and convincing evidence:
The Respondent violated Rule 1.3 of the Rules of Professional Conduct by failing to act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing the Complainant. The Complainant was under the mistaken belief that his personal injury case had settled and that the $3000 was part of this settlement. Although the Respondent did not file suit nor receive a settlement on the Complainant's behalf, he failed to share this information with the Complainant in the two or three years that passed since the Complainant retained him. Given this, the Complainant was left in the dark as to the true status of his case and ultimately formed the mistaken belief that his case was brought to conclusion through settlement. The Respondent also violated Rule 1.8(e) of the Rules of Professional Conduct by providing financial assistance to the Complainant in connection with his personal injury case. Although the Complainant believed the $3000 was part of the settlement of his case, the Respondent admitted that he advanced the money to the Complainant. Finally, the record lacks clear and convincing evidence that the Respondent failed to safeguard the Complainant's property in violation of Rule 1.15 of the Rules of Professional Conduct given that the Respondent neither filed suit nor received a settlement on the Complainant's behalf.
Accordingly, since this reviewing committee concludes that the Respondent violated Rules 1.3 and 1.8(e) of the Rules of Professional Conduct, we order that the Respondent be presented to the Superior Court for the imposition of whatever discipline the court may deem appropriate.
Attorney Rita A. Steinberger
Attorney Dominick J. Rutigliano
Mr. William Carroll