Friday, December 3, 2010

Is Richard Schwartz liable for the alleged actions of Vann Leonard?

JJ discussed a case yesterday filed against local attorneys Richard Scwhartz and Vann Leonard by a Shirley Douglas. Ms. Douglas suffered injuries and damages from an auto accidence several years ago and retained Mr. Schwartz. She subsequently filed bankruptcy. Mr. Schwartz negotiated a $500,000 settlement for her. He hired Vann Leonard to apply to the bankruptcy court for approval of his fees of $172, 414 and gave Mr. Leonard the remainder of the funds to deposit with the bankruptcy court. The bankruptcy trustee and Ms. Douglas filed separate lawsuits alleging Mr. Leonard kept the money for himself and thus misappropriated the funds.

The crack EIB research team found this lil ole 1993 ruling handed down by the Mississippi Supreme Court regarding whether an attorney is liable for other attorneys he hires in Duggins v. Guardianship of Maurice Kendall Washington (632 So.2d 420, 1993). W.B. Duggins was an attorney in Vicksburg who associated Douglas Barfield on a case to pursue a medical malpractice claim. Mr. Barfield lied to Mr. Duggins and said he filed the lawsuit when in fact it was never filed and he gave him a case number to an older Barfield case. Mr. Barfield negotiated a settlement for the plaintiff then proceeded to misspend most of the funds. Mr. Barfield was subsequently prosecuted and convicted for his misdeeds.

The Court ruled Mr. Duggins was liable for Mr. Barfield's misdeeds even though he himself did nothing wrong:
"In this age of specialization of attorneys, it is not uncommon for the association of counsel in areas in which an attorney might not possess the required knowledge to pursue his client's claim. With this association goes the sharing of control and responsibilities, the work involved, and the rewards. However, too often overlooked are the liabilities and the possible exposure that go along with association. Such is the case with this present appeal..."

The Court said "The question at the heart of this case is whether an attorney who associates another attorney remains vicariously liable for the associated attorney's actions". The Court ruled they were partners and absent any written agreement to the contrary, which did not exist, Mr. Duggins was indeed liable for the actions of his "partner", Mr. Barfield. and that

"§ 79-12-27 (Mississippi Code) states:
The partnership is bound to make good the loss:
(a) Where one partner acting within the scope of his apparent authority receives money or property of a third person and misapplies it
(b) Where the partnership in the course of its business receives money or property of a third person and the money or property so received is misapplied by any partner while it is in the custody of the partnership.
Miss. Code Ann. § 79-12-27 (1972). This code section requires that one partner make good for another partner's misappropriation of money or property while in the custody of the partnership. Finally, the UPA provides that all partners are jointly and severally liable for all debts and obligations of the partnership. Miss. Code Ann. § 79-12-29 (1972)."

The Court also ruled Mr. Duggins was liable for punitive damages:
"Duggins argues that punitive damages should not be assessed against him since he was an innocent partner to the misappropriation of the guardianship's funds. He again cites Idom as supporting authority. However, it seems apparent that if Duggins can be found to be vicariously liable for the actions of Barfield, he can also be found liable for punitive damages. The venerable cases of Heirn and Robinson both found punitive damages appropriate against an innocent partner for actions done by another partner while engaged in work within the scope of the partnership. Although these cases are quite old, they have both withstood the test of time, with their legal reasonings and conclusions intact. The same statutory arguments used in finding Duggins vicariously liable for Barfield's actions can be applied for the imposition of punitive damages.."

It would seem Mr. Schwartz has something to worry about in terms of his association with Mr. Leonard.


Anonymous said...


Ironghost said...

Excellence in Blogging? Perhaps a parody of Rush's broadcasting network?

Anonymous said...

Why did he get to take his full cut from the settlement before she went into bankruptcy? (35% for a settlement?) Wouldn't the fair thing be for Richard to get in line with all of the other creditors and get his equitable share? Wait, sorry, I forgot we were talking about lawyer fees.

Anonymous said...

bet this gets swept away faster than cam newton's daddy can say one hundred

Anonymous said...

show me the $$ money $$

Raymond Engineer said...

I always wanted to know how lawyers who handle bankruptcy get paid. I got a letter once for an over due invoice from the bankruptcy court sent by their lawyer saying they had zero assets and would not be paying.

I asked the attorney if he got paid, and he said yes he gets the fee before the filing. I wrote a worthless letter (for fun) to the court stating that my invoice predated the attorney's and I should be ahead of him in line.

No response (or check) was ever recieved.

Anonymous said...
There are crooks everywhere...!!!

Anonymous said...

Read about this case for an Ethic's class. I could be wrong, but can't an attorney prevent being liable for the acts of an associated attorney, if the first attorney spells out the division of liability in the association contract.

Kingfish said...

You are right he can protect himslef with a written agreement. One wonders why RS didn't mention it in his response if he had done so..

Anonymous said...

Thought this type of protection also required disclosure to the client, and the client's participation in the contract? This is the problem in my view - client hires a lawyer that he or she trusts, and ought to be able to hold that lawyer accountable if another lawyer unknown to the client screws up the case.

Anonymous said...

If Richard Schw. has no written agreement with Mr. Leonard, there might is a good reason why he did not get one executed. There could be more here than meets the eye.

Anonymous said...

Schwartz was dumb/negligent to give the money to Leonard. He should have paid it to the Trustee.

Anonymous said...

You must be one desperate unemployed reporter to post this kind of innuendo without a single human source willing to speak on the record. Pathetic fail. JJ

Kingfish said...

2:15PM: Not disagreeing with that at all. Mr. Schwartz's response was posted here and as he makes further responses, they will be posted as well.

Anonymous said...

I guess one call didn't do it all.....

Suscribe to latest on JJ.

Recent Comments

Search Jackson Jambalaya

Subscribe to JJ's Youtube channel


Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS.

Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS