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Deadbeat Lawyer Trying to Rip Off Doctor Gets Busted

May 18, 2023

This story serves as a lesson in how to deal with a lawyer who refuses to honor a letter of protection and pay up after a settlement.

Pin-striped suit with cash in lapel

(Image credit: Getty Images)


 

Today’s story will not only be of special interest to healthcare providers — physicians, chiropractors, physical therapists and psychologists — who treat auto accident victims on a lien basis, but will also offer suggestions on how not to get ripped off by a deadbeat lawyer who is supposed to protect your bill. 

Should a Lawyer Go to Honor His Duty to a Client?

And if you are wondering how often this happens, just ask Southern California attorney Shawn Steel, who says, “Nationwide, over three-quarters of lawyers who handle personal cases on a lien basis flagrantly refuse to honor the lien — and, in my experience, especially those attorneys who spend millions of dollars on television ads. Far too many health care professionals just don’t know what to do when they are stiffed, or their bill is cut to shreds.”

Your reputation matters


The last paragraph of my October 2022 article A Lawyer’s Reputation Begins in Law School — which shared how my classmate tried to deny the entire first-year Loyola Law School class an important final exam study aid — reads:

“Our reputation — with classmates who will become colleagues, partners and the judges before whom we will stand — is one of the most fragile things we possess. Handle it with care. Across my years of practice, I’ve found that most do.”

In the City of Good Neighbors — also known as Buffalo, N.Y. — resides “Eric,” an attorney who doesn’t care much about protecting his own reputation as much as fattening his wallet by attempting to steal personal injury settlement funds intended to pay for his clients’ medical treatment.

As you will see, Eric finally agreed to pay, a result of the outrage of “Kitty,” the doctor’s new office manager, upon discovering Eric’s deceit. She researched how to deal with a thief who is a member of the New York State Bar Association and found my February 2019 article When Lawyers Refuse to Pay a Doctor’s Bill.

She phoned me — and to quote from the 1980s TV show The A-Team, “I love it when a plan comes together.” Because, typically, when a lawyer — or, in my case, a lawyer-journalist — calls someone who has not performed under their contract, magical things happen afterward. I told Kitty that I would phone Eric and talk to him, as the bare fact of my call should prompt him to either pay up or provide proof of payment.

An accident, lack of insurance and a letter of protection


In mid-2019, “Rocky” was stopped for a red light and was rear-ended by a driver found to be at fault by the Buffalo Police Department. He had no auto-medical insurance or private medical insurance. The collision resulted in a worsening of Rocky’s pre-existing spinal stenosis and caused extreme pain — so much so that he sought legal counsel, hired Eric, who was able to get pain specialist “Dr. S” to treat him based on a so-called letter of protection, which read:

“Our office will protect the interests of all medical providers who agree to wait for payment until such time as the case is settled. We will need your chart and progress notes, results of all tests establishing the extent of our client’s injuries.”

Beware of an Examination Under Oath by Your Insurance Company

It should be noted that Dr. S initially refused to accept the case but admitted, “I really felt sorry for the poor guy and just had to help him, keeping my fingers crossed that I would be paid.”

Case settled, but where’s our money?


As often happens, the insurance company representing the at-fault driver refused to make any sort of a reasonable offer. The matter was litigated, and along came COVID-19, postponing a final settlement until mid-2022. Then things got interesting.

Kitty sent me correspondence and phone messages from Eric’s office that claimed the bill had been paid, but no proof — no canceled check — ever was produced.

“We were given a host of excuses and promises to have payment next week, and next week, and next week, until I was fed up and filed a complaint with the New York State Bar and called you, Mr. Beaver,” Kitty said.

Hi, Eric, I’m doing a story on lawyers who stiff doctors. Can you help me?




Kitty’s sense of fundamental morality and right and wrong motivated me on top of my contempt for members of the legal profession who are just plain thieves.

When I phoned Eric and explained that I was looking into what appeared to be a case of a lawyer who failed to honor his letter of protection, it was clear I was dealing with an indignant thief who’d been caught. His initial reaction was laughable, as if he were saying, You dare question the great and powerful Oz?

His excuse? “It’s the patient’s bill. The doctor should get his money from Rocky.”

“But Rocky spoke with you, and you promised to pay the bill months ago, so where’s the doctor’s money?”

Eric then said, “Well, possibly we overlooked payment, but I will take care of it next week, and you can tell them that. But don’t dare use my name in a story!”

“I never use real names without permission, so don’t worry, Eric, and certainly don’t worry one bit about the fact that I am looking at letters from you promising to pay the bill next week. Several letters all say the same thing.”

Kitty phoned me after that call. “He called my boss and promised to pay us. But if he does not, what should we do?”


“You have lodged a complaint with the state bar, so file against his law firm in small-claims court. Lawyers hate both things, and a check should magically appear. But next time, tell your boss to go with his gut feelings about accepting a patient on a letter-of-protection basis,” I recommended. (See more ways to deal with a deadbeat lawyer in the previously mentioned article When Lawyers Refuse to Pay a Client’s Doctor Bill.)

Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield, Calif., and welcomes comments and questions from readers, which may be faxed to (661) 323-7993, or e-mailed to Lagombeaver1@gmail.com. And be sure to visit dennisbeaver.com.

This article was written by and presents the views of our contributing adviser, not the Kiplinger editorial staff. You can check adviser records with the SEC or with FINRA.




In implied rebuke to Trump, Republican Party denounces Kanye West and Nick Fuentes

January 29, 2023

 

President Donald Trump and rapper Kanye West

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Republican Party unanimously condemned as antisemitic Kanye West and Nick Fuentes, saying their beliefs have no place in “any political discourse.”

The official resolution passed on Friday at the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting represents an implied rebuke to former President Donald Trump, who recently dined and consulted with the men, but does not mention him.

The resolution opposes “all forms of antisemitism, antisemitic statements and any antisemitic elements that seek to infiltrate the Republican Party.” It names West, the rapper and designer now known as Ye, saying he “has repeatedly made statements that are antisemitic, shameful, wrong, offensive, bigoted, and contrary to American and Republican principles.” It also names Fuentes, noting that he is a white supremacist.

Trump dined with West and Fuentes in November, not long after West launched a barrage of antisemitic statements on social media and interviews. Fuentes has long been known as an antisemite and a Holocaust denier.

“Resolved, that the Republican National Committee affirms antisemitism has no place in our political party, American politics, or any political discourse,” the resolution said.

Trump did not apologize for the encounter, even though it drew rebukes from some of his closest Jewish associates. Trump said West was an old friend in crisis, and that West brought along Fuentes, whom Trump claimed not to know and whose antisemitism he condemned.

Politico, which first reported planning for the resolution, said it was conceived by Shawn Steel, a national committeeman for the RNC. “I want to create a standard for all political parties in America, that we don’t tolerate bigotry, and in this particular case, antisemitism,” he told Politico.

The resolution also targeted a number of Democrats that Republicans see as antisemitic, in part because of their harsh criticism of Israel and in at least three cases, their endorsement of the boycott Israel movement.

The resolution reflects the party’s growing ambiguity about the former president. Trump was seen as the party leader until November, when the GOP performed poorly in midterm elections it was expected to sweep. The party blamed losses on Trump’s obsession with the false claim that he won the 2020 election, and on the poor performances of candidates, a number of them eccentric, whom Trump had endorsed.

Trump is still seen as a force to reckon with; he is the sole declared Republican candidate for the 2024 presidential election. But there is greater willingness to move on from his legacy. A number of candidates once close to Trump are signaling they will soon announced their own presidential runs, including three with deep support among Jewish conservatives: former Vice President Mike Pence, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley.

The RNC confab reelected Ronna McDaniel as its chairwoman, although it has underperformed since she first assumed the role in 2017. McDaniel is seen as close to Trump, a factor that helped her fend off challenges, and a signal of his continuing influence. Lee Zeldin, a Jewish Republican who served in Congress and just lost an unexpectedly close race for New York governor, briefly considered challenging McDaniel.




RNC chair highlights success in Orange County as she seeks to hold onto her position

January 27, 2023

Story by Hanna Kang, The Orange County Register



Ahead of the three-day-long meeting where Ronna McDaniel will contend for another term as the face of the Republican National Committee at a luxury waterfront resort in Dana Point, the incumbent paid a visit to the Asian Pacific American Community Center, nestled in a Little Saigon strip mall in Westminster.

McDaniel is pointing to the community center in Westminster, the first of its kind, as a success in getting an in with minority communities as she seeks a fourth term as RNC chair at the party’s winter meeting in Dana Point this week.

It’s indicative of the role Orange County and California play as the GOP decides its future. Asian Americans have been on pace as the fastest-growing racial or ethnic group, according to the Pew Research Center, and voting bloc in the nation. And California is home to the largest AAPI population, with roughly 1 in 6 residents being Asian American and Pacific Islander.

Should she win, McDaniel will make history as the longest-serving RNC chair. She faces a challenge from California attorney Harmeet Dhillon, who has the support of a number of notable Republicans including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Kari Lake, who lost the Arizona gubernatorial election last year.

Dhillon has blamed McDaniel’s leadership as a reason for the failure of a widely-predicted “red wave” to materialize in the 2022 midterms. (Dhillon was not available for comment for this story, her spokesperson said.)

But during this week’s event in Little Saigon, McDaniel focused on the victories.

“The GOP is winning in Orange County,” McDaniel told the Register. “Republicans flipped two seats in 2020, reelected Congresswoman Michelle Steel in a Democrat-leaning district and held Congresswoman Young Kim’s seat in 2022, and the RNC is investing more to make bigger inroads with Orange County voters in 2024.”

Orange County is known to have one of the largest Vietnamese communities outside of Vietnam, and Little Saigon, where the community center is located, is its hub.

And while there are more registered Democrats in the county than Republicans — and Asian Americans as a whole favor Democratic candidates — county voters’ preference for Republican candidates on the state ballot and the Republican Party’s ability to recruit candidates like Steel and Kim have Republicans recently investing millions in nonwhite voting communities.

Shawn Steel, a state Republican Party national committeeman who is married to Michelle Steel, said Asian community outreach had a dramatic impact on her campaign, which led to her defeat of Democrat Jay Chen by a nearly five percentage point margin in November.

“This is the prototype for the future,” Shawn Steel said.

Key races in 2024 will feature Asian American candidates, and the message from Republicans at this week’s event in Westminster implied the party plans to invest heavily in these communities ahead of the 2024 election season, just as it had for the midterm races.

The Asian Pacific American Community Center in Little Saigon is among the efforts to make greater inroads with Orange County’s AAPI voters, whom Republicans hope will help them hold onto office in an increasingly blue landscape. The center serves as a hub for community events as well as a place to recruit and train volunteers for voter outreach.

“This wasn’t just about short-term wins or short-term protects,” California Republican Party Chairwoman Jessica Millan Patterson, said. “This was about being in the community, taking the Republican message. We talk about the values here in this community and why Republicans would represent them the best. And this community center has been that centerpiece for support.”

Thirty-three community centers aimed at organizing minority voters are currently scattered across the country, and Patterson said she hopes for more to be opened in preparation for 2024.

“You notice in the background there’s a dance studio next door. That’s what a community headquarters ought to be. There ought to be dance, and the strong smell of pho, and the ethnic vitality,” Shawn Steel said. “Most Republicans get it now, not all, but most Republicans in Orange County get it. They embrace it. They like it.”

 





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