Q: Sold gas station due to bankruptcy but lawyer may be taking advantage of a senior citizen. What to do?
My dad sold his gas station about a year ago (as it was in bankruptcy). He had to go through the court system to negotiate a deal with the buyer and was asked to pay a portion of the funds to lenders to pay off debt owed. He would still be left over with a good amount of money (close to $70k+). To date, he has not seen even a penny of this amount. His lawyer has access to the funds and keeps giving excuses and telling him he had to use the funds to pay off penalties and other items the business owed (still have not seen proof of this). He also gave money to his assistant saying that because she was shadowing him (the lawyer) during the court sessions, that my dad would also have to pay her fee (even though he was not aware of this and did not agree to this as he only hired that ONE lawyer to take on his case). I feel like he's being taken advantage of as he is a senior citizen. Is what his lawyer doing even legal? What are our options at this point? Thank you.
A: Contact the CA Bar Association and file a complaint for your dad.
A: As previous answers suggest you should contact the State BAR. I would also sit down with an attorney and get a consultation to see what your options are.
A: "Your" options are zero. Your father is the only one with options. He should read his retainer agreement with respect to fees, and his right to an accounting of the proceeds.
An attorney who receives settlement proceeds must properly disburse those funds. Rule 1.15 requires the attorney to promptly pay or deliver funds (or property) the client is entitled to receive. Where the attorney has a charging lien on the client's recovery and there is a dispute regarding the amount to which the attorney is entitled, the attorney is nonetheless obligated to promptly take reasonable steps to pay or deliver to the client the portion of the proceeds that are not in dispute. 4-100(B)(4). As to the disputed amount, if the attorney and client cannot reach an agreement, COPRAC recommends that the attorney must seek arbitration or a judicial determination without delay. Cal. State Bar Form. Opn. 2009-177.
Attorneys are also obligated to account to clients over client funds held in trust. Rule of Professional Responsibility 1.15. calbar.ca.gov/Portals/0/documents/rules/Rule_1.15-Exec_Summary-Redline.pdf
Rule 1.8.1 requires your written consent for your attorney to engage in a transaction which is adverse to your interests. calbar.ca.gov/Portals/0/documents/rules/Rule_1.8.1-Exec_Summary-Redline.pdf This applies to payment of costs, expenses and liens.
You can find a summary and explanation of attorney accounting requirements here: calbar.ca.gov/Portals/0/documents/ethics/Publications/Portals0documentsethicsPublicationsCTA-Handbook.pdf
You can contact the State Bar to make a complaint here. calbar.ca.gov/Public/Complaints-Claims
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