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Lawmoe
Lawmoe, Lawyer (JD)
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In New Jersey, I have a lawsuit regarding a slip and fall in

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In New Jersey, I have a lawsuit regarding a slip and fall in which I was badly injured when I tripped over a broken sidewalk in front of my apartment building. I was pregnant at the time and nearly miscarried, and suffered a back injury that required surgery.

I retained an attorney who has been handling the case for 5 years. I was told that it was potentially a million dollar lawsuit. Now we are down to a couple of weeks before trial and the insurance company's lawyer has filed a motion to dismiss the case. My attorney is heavily pressuring me to to 25k, which he thinks he can get from the insurance company before the motion is heard. This amount won't even cover the medical expenses and debt that the injury has caused.
I asked him to provide me with copies of the motions so that I can show them to another attorney for a second opinion. He refuses to give them to me. In fact, he has never given me anything at all in the last two years. How do I get him to give me the case file?
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  Lawmoe replied 4 years ago.

Thank you for the post and I am sorry to hear of your injuries and your troubles.

 

It would appear that your attorney is beginning to have significant concerns regarding the merits of the case and, perhaps, apprehension about trial. Slip and Fall cases are notoriously difficult and generally require that the defendant knew or should have known about the dangerous condition and performed insufficiently in their duty to remediate the situation.

 

That being said, attorneys' conduct is governed by the Rules of Ethics adopted in each state. For New Jersey, those ethical obligations are set forth at http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/rules/apprpc.htm

 

Rule 1.4 addresses communication between attorney and client and, in your case, seems to be at issue. It states as follows:

 

RPC 1.4. Communication

  • (a) A lawyer shall fully inform a prospective client of how, when, and where the client may communicate with the lawyer.

  • (b) A lawyer shall keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter and promptly comply with reasonable requests for information.

  • (c) A lawyer shall explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation.

  • (d) When a lawyer knows that a client expects assistance not permitted by the Rules of Professional Conduct or other law, the lawyer shall advise the client of the relevant limitations on the lawyer's conduct.

I would send a letter to the lawyer indicating that you are entitled to the information in your file and, if it is not provided, you will have to seek remedial measures. THose remedial measures may include filing a grievance.

 

In New Jersey, by Supreme Court rule, all grievances must be in writing and filed with the secretary of the district ethics committee for the district in which the lawyer has his or her main law office. Because there are currently 17 district ethics committees throughout the state, you are advised to telephone the Ethics/Fee Arbitration Hotline at 1-(800)-406-8594. After you enter the zip code of the attorney's office address, you will be transferred to the appropriate district ethics committee Secretary to request grievance forms.

If you have Adobe Acrobat Reader, you may print an Attorney Grievance Form. Send the original and two (2) copies to the district secretary where the attorney has an office for practice.

 

When you complete and file an Attorney Grievance Form, you must provide sufficient detail about the facts of your grievance such as names and addresses of all witnesses, dates, and pertinent documentation to serve as a basis for further investigation. Failure to provide important facts and copies of important documents may result in a delay in the consideration of the grievance while the documentation is obtained.

 

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Customer: replied 4 years ago.
This is a pretty weak answer. The greivance committee!?!?! Ethics arbitration hotline?! First of all, this is New Jersey. You're talking years for a response.

I believe the attorney is hiding some kind of malfesance or incompetence. I want to get a second opinion from another attorney, before the 19th of March when the motion is scheduled to be heard. The fact that he is flat refusing to prvide me with the complete motion indicates that he is hiding something. How do I get the file from him so that I can engage another attorney for the second opinion? Is there no way to force him to give me the file?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
This is a pretty weak answer. This is NJ, and the solutions you suggest will take months if not years to work. I have until the 19th of March when the motion to dismiss will be heard.

I believe he is hiding some kind of malfeasance or incompetence, and his flat refusal to provide me with the paperwork seems to confirm this. How do I get him to give me what I need for a second opinion, right away?

If the answer is, there is no way, I'd appreciate this more than a runaround.
Expert:  Lawmoe replied 4 years ago.

I am afraid I cannot create new ways to resolve dispuites. I can only provide information as to the ways that are available.

 

I understand the time constraint. That is why I suggested above as follows: "I would send a letter to the lawyer indicating that you are entitled to the information in your file and, if it is not provided, you will have to seek remedial measures. Those remedial measures may include filing a grievance."

 

Attorneys are often highly sensitive to potential complaints and would very rapidly respond.

 

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Lawmoe, Lawyer (JD)
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 2415
Experience: Lawyer with 19 years of litigation experience in state and federal court systems.
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Lawmoe
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