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Attorney Grievance Commission of v. Sinclair

April 8, 1985

ATTORNEY GRIEVANCE COMMISSION OF MARYLAND
v.
JOHN HOWELL SINCLAIR



Circuit Court for Prince George's County Richard John Clark JUDGE.

Murphy, C.J., Smith, Eldridge, Cole, Rodowsky and McAuliffe, JJ., and Charles E. Orth, Jr., Associate Judge of the Court of Appeals (retired), Specially Assigned. Orth, Judge, dissenting.

Per Curiam

The Attorney Grievance Commission, acting through Bar Counsel, filed a petition for disciplinary action against John Howell Sinclair, alleging violations of the Disciplinary Rules of the Code of Professional Responsibility. We referred the matter, pursuant to Maryland Rule BV9 b, to Judge Richard

J. Clark of the Circuit Court for Prince George's County to make findings of fact and conclusions of law. After conducting an evidentiary hearing, Judge Clark filed detailed findings and conclusions as follows:

" Findings of Fact

"1. John Howell Sinclair was admitted as a member of the Bar of the Court of Appeals of Maryland on July 7, 1969 and maintains an office for the practice of law at 3623 Eastern Avenue, Mt. Ranier, Maryland 20822.

2. On October 22, 1979, Tanya Eileen Worley was employed as a cashier for Coleman Cadillac Company (Coleman) in Bethesda, Maryland, and at or about that time Coleman was in the process of remodeling the building at which it carried on its business.

3. On October 22, 1979, Mrs. Worley was at her place of employment working at her duties as cashier. At approximately 9:10 a.m., while she was standing in front of the cashier's window, an area that had been recently remodeled, the pane of glass fell out of the cashier's window and struck Mrs. Worley.

4. As a result of being struck by the pane of glass, Mrs. Worley received cuts on her right arm, her right shoulder, and the calf of her right leg and she was taken by ambulance from her place of employment to the emergency room of Surburban Hospital.

5. Mrs. Worley's cuts were cleaned and dressed at Suburban Hospital, and eleven (11) stitches were required to close the wound on her right arm. Following the emergency treatment, she was released from the hospital.

6. Mrs. Worley subsequently retained the services of Allen Feigelson, Esquire, to file a claim for workmen's compensation benefits on her behalf, and she advised Mr. Sinclair at their initial interview that Mr. Feigelson had filed such a claim.

7. On December 10, 1979, the Workmen's Compensation Commission passed an award of compensation in Claim No.

A767266 directing that Coleman Cadillac Company, Employer, and Travelers Insurance Company, Insurer, pay to Mrs. Worley compensation at the rate of $114.00 per week during the continuance of her temporary total disability. Mrs. Worley missed one (1) week of work and was paid a total of $114.00 in workmen's compensation benefits.

8. On January 16, 1980, Mrs. Worley met with Mr. Sinclair at his office and the two of them discussed her case.

9. At this initial interview, Mrs. Worley described to Mr. Sinclair the accident of October 22, 1979 and advised him that two of her fellow employees, a Mr. Dobyns (recorded by Mr. Sinclair in the notes of his initial interviews as "Dobbins") and a woman named Anetta (her last name was unknown to Mrs. Worley at the time of the interview), had advised her that the window in the recently remodeled cashier's office had been installed by Bob's Custom Cabinets. Mrs. Worley and Mr. Sinclair further discussed Mrs. Worley's medical condition, and Mrs. Worley provided Mr. Sinclair with the names and addresses of six doctors whom she had seen for the injuries she received on October 22, 1979.

10. On January 16, 1980, Mrs. Worley signed a written Agreement of Retainer, retaining the services of Mr. Sinclair to prosecute her claim for damages "against any and all persons, companies, or corporations which might be liable to us, for personal injuries . . . sustained on or about 10/22/79. . . ." There is no evidence before the undersigned from which a determination can be made as to whether Mrs. Worley retained the services of Mr. Sinclair to pursue her claim for workmen's compensation benefits.

11. On January 17, 1980, Mr. Sinclair mailed to Bob's Custom Cabinets (Bob's) a letter advising it of the October 22, 1979 accident at Coleman Cadillac and the fact that Mrs. Worley was injured and advising Bob's that "We have been advised that your company installed this glass." The letter further requested that Bob's provide Mr. Sinclair with the

name of its insurance carrier or, in the absence of liability insurance, contact him directly.

12. At the conclusion of the initial interview, Mr. Sinclair requested that Mrs. Worley provide him with the names of any witnesses who could be helpful in proving her case, and Mrs. Worley agreed to do so.

13. Mrs. Worley telephoned Mr. Sinclair on four or five occasions after January, 1980, and on more than one occasion provided him with the names of Jimmy Dobyns and Anetta Brawley, witnesses to the fact that Bob's had done the work on the remodeled cashier's office, including the installation of the window.

14. Between January, 1980 and August 26, 1982, with the exception of speaking to Mrs. Worley when she called or dropped by the office about the case, Mr. Sinclair took no action to pursue Mrs. Worley's Claim.

15. On August 26, 1982, Mr. Sinclair spoke to Mr. Coleman of Coleman Cadillac and was told by Mr. Coleman that Mrs. Worley's claim was frivolous, that she was trying to get something for nothing, that Bob Osmond of Bob's Custom Cabinets was one of the finest young men that Mr. Coleman knew, and that Mr. Coleman would not cooperate with him in pursuing Mrs. Worley's claim.

16. Between August 26, 1982 and October, 1982, Mr. Sinclair, with the exception of speaking to Mrs. Worley, performed no investigation of Mrs. Worley's claim and took no action to pursue the same.

17. On October 21, 1982, Mr. Sinclair filed suit in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, Maryland, on behalf of Mrs. Worley against Bob's Custom Cabinets and Countertops, Inc.

18. On March 16, 1983, Bob's filed a Motion for Summary Judgment accompanied by a Memorandum of Points and Authorities, Notice Pursuant to Maryland Rule 610, and an Affidavit in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment. The Affidavit was subscribed to by Robert E. Osmond, who swore under oath that he was the owner of the defendant

corporation and its only employee and that the contract between the defendant and Coleman was for the installation of certain cabinets for the cashier's office and did not include the installation or any work associated with the window pane or glass in the cashier's office. The Affidavit further stated that window pane and glass were not touched, loosened, or adjusted or contacted by him in any way while performing his work at Coleman Cadillac.

19. By Order dated March 21, 1983, the Circuit Court for Montgomery County granted Bob's Motion to add Traveler's Insurance Company (Coleman's workmen's compensation carrier) as a party plaintiff.

20. By Order dated April 18, 1983, the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, Maryland, entered an Order for Summary Judgment, entering judgment in favor of Bob's Custom Cabinets and Countertops, Inc., and against Eileen Worley. The Order for Summary Judgment notes, and a review of the file confirms, that no opposition was filed in response to Bob's Motion for Summary Judgment.

21. On May 11, 1983, Mrs. Worley contacted Mr. Sinclair and advised him that Dr. Rasher, her treating physician, was prepared to render a medical report on her condition. Mr. Sinclair advised her for the first time that the defendant had filed a Motion for Summary Judgment and that affidavits would have to be secured from Mr. Dobyns and/or Mrs. Brawley in order to oppose the motion.

22. At the time of the May 11, 1983 telephone conversation, summary judgment had already been entered against Mrs. Worley.

23. Mr. Sinclair, after being retained by Mrs. Worley, never contacted Mr. Dobyns or Mrs. Brawley, witnesses whose names had been provided to him by Mrs. Worley. He never contacted any of the doctors who treated Mrs. Worley nor received any hospital records or bills; however, Mrs. Worley had agreed to tell Mr. Sinclair when Dr. Rasher, her treating physician, would be in a position to render a medical report, and the purpose of her May 11,

1983 telephone call was to inform Mr. Sinclair that Dr. Rasher was now in a position to render such a report.

24. Mr. Sinclair never contacted Mrs. Worley concerning the interrogatories propounded to her by Bob's or the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Bob's and filed no opposition to the motion or requested ...


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