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In re Thompson

Supreme Court of New Jersey

January 30, 2018

IN THE MATTER OF RONALD THOMPSON, AN ATTORNEY AT LAW

          Argued: October 19, 2017

          District Docket No. VB-2016-0006E

          Kingsuk Bhattacharya appeared on behalf of the District VB Ethics Committee.

          Marc D. Garfinkle appeared on behalf of respondent.

          Ellen A. Brodsky Chief Counsel.

          DECISION

          Bonnie C. Frost, Chair.

         To the Honorable Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of New Jersey.

         This matter was before us pursuant to R. 1:20-6 (c) (1) .[1] The District VB Ethics Committee (DEC), filed a two-count complaint charging respondent with violating RPC 1.4(b) (failure to keep the client reasonably informed about the status of the matter) and RPC 1.4(c) (failure to explain the matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation). For the reasons expressed below, we determine to impose a reprimand.

         Respondent was admitted to the New Jersey bar in 1980 and the Pennsylvania bar in 1979. On April 27, 1998, he received an admonition for lack of diligence and failure to communicate with his client in one matter. Specifically, in a workers' compensation case, respondent sued the wrong defendant, allowed the petition to be dismissed, successfully filed an amended petition, allowed it to be "discontinued," and wrote to his client at an erroneous address, before finally being relieved as counsel. In the Matter of Ronald Thompson, DRB 97-507 (April 27, 1998).

         Twelve years later, on June 23, 2010, respondent received a second admonition for gross neglect, lack of diligence, and failure to communicate with the client in a personal injury matter. In that case, he represented a guardian ad litem on behalf of her then minor daughter. Because respondent failed to serve the defendant, the complaint was dismissed. The court denied respondent's attempt to restore the matter because he had waited more than a year after the dismissal to attempt to do so. Four years after respondent filed the original complaint, the minor reached the age of eighteen. Respondent failed to refile the lawsuit in her name alone or to take any further action, allowing the statute of limitations to expire. We did not consider respondent's prior admonition as an aggravating factor, based on the passage of time. In the Matter of Ronald Thompson, DRB 10-148 (June 23, 2010).

         The facts in this matter are as follows. On June 25, 2014, Jewel Griner, the grievant, retained respondent to handle a personal injury matter arising from injuries she had sustained in a slip and fall incident on February 22, 2014. Thereafter, respondent obtained Griner's medical records and other relevant claim information, and submitted it to the defendant's insurance carrier.

         In August 2015, after receiving notice of the claim, the carrier wrote to respondent on several occasions. In the last of these communications, dated August 28, 2015, the insurance carrier denied Griner's claim. Between August 2015 and February 2016, Griner attempted to contact respondent on at least one occasion, and possibly more, but never heard from him.

         By letter dated February 3, 2016, respondent informed Griner that the insurance carrier continued to deny her claim and that he was not inclined to pursue the matter into litigation. This letter was respondent's first communication with Griner since his receipt of the August 28, 2015 letter. On February 16, 2016, in response to his letter, Griner called respondent, leaving a message that she needed to speak with him urgently.

         When respondent and Griner spoke directly, he advised her to pick up her file on February 20, 2016. He prepared a complaint for Griner to file pro se in order to preserve the statute of limitations, which expired Monday, February 22, 2016. He informed Griner of the date of the statute of limitations ...


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