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In re Dunn

Supreme Court of Louisiana

May 11, 2018

IN RE: JOHN MORRIS DUNN, III

         ATTORNEY DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDING

          PER CURIAM

         This disciplinary matter arises from formal charges filed by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel ("ODC") against respondent, John Morris Dunn, III, an attorney licensed to practice law in Louisiana.

         UNDERLYING FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         By way of background, respondent represented numerous personal injury clients whom he referred to Dr. Stewart Altman for medical treatment or who sought treatment from Dr. Altman on their own. For some of these clients, respondent signed letters of guarantee to Dr. Altman.

         At some point, Dr. Altman sold his medical practice to MCNO, LLC d/b/a SouthShore Physician Group (hereinafter referred to as "SouthShore"). On February 23, 2011, SouthShore sent respondent a letter with a list of his clients' outstanding accounts totaling $74, 058.50. In the letter, SouthShore stated:

We have tried many times to communicate with you regarding these cases that you guaranteed payment on after settled [sic] and you have not returned our calls. There for [sic] you left us no choice but to contact the patients to find out about there [sic] cases and we were notified by the patients that the cases settled and money was held for there [sic] medical expenses that they accrued with SouthShore Physician Group.
If you do not make payment arrangements with our office as soon as possible … you leave us no alternative but to file the patient correspondents [sic], your letter of guarantees and all outstanding accounts with the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Counsel and we will also hire legal counsel and bring you to court regarding these outstanding accounts. Several of your clients are willing to testify in this matter.

         In response to this letter, respondent wrote to SouthShore to explain that he had been having heart problems and financial problems since November 2004. However, he failed to make payment arrangements or otherwise address the issue with SouthShore.

         As a result, SouthShore referred the outstanding patient accounts to its attorney, Mr. Aubrey Hirsch. SouthShore also filed a disciplinary complaint against respondent on June 2, 2011. On July 19, 2011, respondent informed the ODC that he had met with Mr. Hirsch about the accounts and had explained to Mr. Hirsch that many of the patients on SouthShore's list had treated with Dr. Altman before retaining respondent, some patients had treated with Dr. Altman but never retained respondent, and some patients' cases were unsuccessful. At their meeting, respondent and Mr. Hirsch on SouthShore's behalf entered into a compromise agreement.

         In a July 13, 2011 letter to respondent, SouthShore set forth the terms of the compromise agreement, indicating that it had accepted a total of $38, 050 to settle all of the outstanding client accounts associated with respondent. The letter also indicated that respondent had made an initial $17, 050 payment to SouthShore, leaving a $21, 000 balance to be paid through monthly payments of $125 "unless Mr. Dunn is able to come up with more funds or we [SouthShore] are aware of more funds available." On August 8, 2011, SouthShore confirmed the compromise agreement to the ODC but informed the ODC that respondent had not yet signed the July 13, 2011 letter to memorialize his acceptance of the compromise agreement. Although respondent made all of the monthly payments to SouthShore, he did not sign the July 13, 2011 letter until February 4, 2013.

         SouthShore's disciplinary complaint sat dormant with the ODC until February 15, 2016, when the ODC filed formal charges against respondent. The formal charges read as follows:

On or around June 2, 2011, the Office [of] Disciplinary Counsel (ODC) received a complaint from third party medical provider Southshore Physician Group. The complaint provides that the Respondent owed approximately $74, 000.00 to them for medical services provided to his clients in various personal injury matters. The Respondent failed to communicate with the Complainant regarding the status of payment regarding the same. As a result, the Complainant was compelled to contact the clients directly. Upon contacting the clients, the Complainant was informed that the personal injury matters had settled and funds owed to the third party medical provider were deducted from the final settlement. The Respondent failed to pay the third party medical provider.
Respondent informed the Complainant that without prior notice, his health failed and he underwent an emergency quadruple bypass heart surgery. At the time, Respondent had no medical insurance and was billed approximately $150, 000.00. As a result, Respondent was unable to work for a period of time. Respondent utilized the third party funds designated to the Complainant for medical services rendered to his personal injury clients to pay his personal medical bills and to sustain himself during the time he was unable to work.
Subsequent to the filing of the complaint, Respondent entered into a payment arrangement with the third party medical provider and is making payments on the balance owed.
Respondent's actions in this matter constitute violating or attempting to violate the Rules of Professional Conduct, in violation of Rule 1.15(a) (failed to hold property belonging to a third person, that is in lawyer's possession, in connection with a representation, separate from the lawyer's own property); Rule 1.15(c) (withdrew funds held in lawyer's client trust account that were not earned fees, belonging to a third party); Rule 1.15(d) (upon receiving funds belonging to a third person, lawyer failed to promptly notify the third person); Rule 8.4(a) ...

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