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Can You Change Your Law Firm?

From whistleblower law

Mesh Medical Device News Desk, September 26, 2017 reposted from May 15, 2017 ~ Can you change law firms if you are unhappy with your representation? Get your retainer agreement out and look at the fine print is a first place to start.

This article is being reposted because so many of you call MND and complain about your law firm and the lackluster settlement dollars being offered to mesh injured plaintiffs.   

When you research whether you can leave your law firm, most references are for attorneys. At least once in a career, a lawyer may want to change firms.

But what if you, the client, are not happy with your representation and want to shop for another law firm to take your case?

Is that allowed?

Federal courthouse, Charleston, WV

A TEAM

In an ideal world, you and your law firm form a “team” based on mutual trust and respect. That means you must provide the law firm with the information it asks for and stay in touch if you move. You must always be reachable.

In turn, the law firm should be able to answer your questions and have someone appointed to be your liaison. This should be a paralegal, or someone familiar with the law. 

Check out the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct here.

Your law firm must provide you with your case number and where your case is filed so you can look it up and verify that it actually has been filed.

You editor is hearing lately of cases that were never filed with the court, instead, they were prepared for settlement. What sort of message does that send to the defense side?  A case worked for trial indicates resources were put into the merits of the case, one that counsel was prepared to present to a jury. As readers know, those  have resulted in multi-million dollar verdicts, with very few exceptions.

 

LEGAL REFERRAL SERVICES

Is your case with a trial lawyer?  Many 800 #’s led the unsuspecting injured plaintiff to a legal referral center that sells or “refers” your case to another firm for a set amount or percentage.

Since one has to be a lawyer to head a legal referral service, you may think you signed up with a law firm (and you did) but they may have had no intention of keeping the case.  Unless you know that, you may waste previous time asking the referral service for an update on your case.

Some plaintiffs were promised theirs was a “million dollar case” when they signed up. That is a red flag. No one knows the value of a case.

Mesh News Desk has heard from plaintiffs who only find out years later that the initial referral firm no longer has their case.

This is a formula for disaster.

No communication can mean that cases fall by the wayside and the plaintiff forgets about it and goes on with their life. That’s what happened in the recent story Women Who Are Missing, who had their cases dismissed by the court when both sides failed to communicate with each other.

Is changing law firms even allowed?   Remember – Your case belongs to you.

WikiCommons, Scott Steiner

Read the fine print of your firm’s retainer agreement. That may contain language that will guide you if you are not happy with your current representation.

If the law firm wants to end the relationship, the replaced lawyer will file a notice of withdrawal with the court.  They must return your original files and papers and property and refund any unused retainer.

Make sure you do not get into a battle over paying them before your files are turned over to the next firm.

Jury in Huskey trial, Akre

The American Bar Association’s Model Rule 1.16(d) (here) says your firm must surrender papers and property as soon as the representation is terminated.  There may be a similar rule in your state bar association

If the firm is owed fees, it will file a lien on whatever award you eventually receive from either a jury award or a settlement.

Make sure the fees and costs are “reasonable” and not excessive. Ask for an invoice with details on the expenditure in your case.

If you never receive anything in a settlement, do you still owe that law firm something?   It’s in the fine print.

Give careful thought to firing your attorney.  Are you on the eve of trial?  Has the firm communicated with you but your real frustration is with the industry you are suing? What are you expectations and are they realistic?

That is the million dollar question when it comes to mesh litigation because the dollars being offered by the mesh industry do not consider a lifetime of pain and medical care, loss of consortium, lost wages, medical care mesh-related but that are not revisions, pain and suffering.

So what is realistic?

As yourself, is this firm acting in a professional manner and do they still have your trust?

A sit down meeting to air your grievances may answer your questions. ###

LEARN MORE:

From Martindale-Hubbell, How to fire your attorney here.

33 Comments

  1. Annonymous K says:

    Great article Jane! I was just recently fired by my law firm for not taking the settlement and yes my mistake was talking to a 1-800 number! Thanks for all that you do for us and being our voice!

  2. Mari says:

    My attorney has failed me on 3 counts and he knows it. 1) I was put in TIer 1 (never told until at a mandated settlement hearing) even the defense agreed I shouldn’t be there as my case was significant. (I’m now told in the highest tier). Also, he knows we overheard him telling the defense attorney that his clients (myself and one other were there) were “problem clients” and made rude comments about the clients son “not being smart enough to get anything”. Pretty sure he has never even read my surgical files. He made me fly out (at our expense) to that settlement hearing. Now he wants to dispose my doctor. I do t even want to settle ever so he keeps saying – maybe you should get another attorney.
    I feel this is another slice from my gut! I don’t have the energy or knowhow to find a better firm. I really want one based in CA that doesn’t just refer the case out. Any suggestions? What would you do Jane?

    • Jane Akre says:

      It’s difficult to say. There are so many factors. The money will never be enough, even millions are not worth your health. Part of the equation is how much you need the funds? Your lawyer sounds like a very rude individual. If you are in a higher tier and have multiple revisions, perhaps you should get another attorney. Sounds like he may be bluffing.

      • Dian says:

        Jane ,I received my mesh offer and I do not want to accept it. Amount unbelievable! Do you know if I can find another lawyer?

  3. CJ says:

    I was told my law suit is a Tolling Agreement. My attorney explained this means it will not be filed in court which will save us $400 but I will receive settlement. I was told I will not have a Case Number. I have not received or signed a Tolling Agreement. Does Tolling Agreements exist and has others been told they have a Tolling Agreement. Will I still receive a settlement? If so where can I check on my case progress?

    • Jane Akre says:

      I’m not a lawyer Cris but you didn’t say if you have pelvic or hernia mesh? If it is not filed, that sends a message to the other side ( in my opinion) that it is lined up for settlement only. That the law firm is not working the case up for trial. It also saves the firm any time in attempting to work the case for trial…. in other words they collect their percentage. Again, in my opinion only, I hope you did NOT agree to a 40% take for the firm if they are only negotiating a settlement. It would seem 30% is a good plenty. Please negotiate going in…. it is much easier.

      • CJ says:

        Unfortunately Jane, I did agree to 40%. I have two different pelvic mesh implants and two revision surgeries, a total of four surgeries, multiple tests and numerous UTI’s. I have been told the first implant is a biologic product and the courts are now not settling and will be dismissed in the near future. (Do you have any information on this situation, Jane?) This is a huge disappointment after being told for three years my case was in a high tier settlement category. I am in pain daily, restricted activity and have not been intimate with my husband for years due to pain. Oh yeah and at my last pelvic exam I was told my bladder has dropped dramatically. Suggested I have another surgery to somehow tie my bladder to my spine. No thank you! I was also told my husband would receive settlement monies for loss of consortium, that probably will never happen. I am now told my Atty is waiting for the mesh company to place settlement valves on my 2nd mesh claim. Hopefully good things will come to those who wait. Just want to thank you Jane for all you do and God Bless you and all who are going through this craziness like myself.

  4. Monica says:

    I’ve been told by my attorney that there is a settlement from Boston Scientific but he doesn’t know what the settlement is. That doesn’t make sense to me. How does an attorney agree to a settlement that they don’t know how much they are agreeing to? They also said it would take a year to even get the papers saying what the settlement is. Why so long? It really doesn’t matter how long it takes though because we may not receive anything after the attorney take their 40% and the loan we’ve had to take to survive because I can no longer work and they didn’t tell us that the bankruptcy we filed for before the surgery they could take what was left. We have another suit filed, (I think) with Johnson & Johnson because like the other women that I’ve read, I also have 2 different meshes and 4 surgeries, lots of medications and lots of urinary tract infections. The mesh could be in my small intestine. We won’t know for another couple of weeks. Everything seems to take so long. I have 2 small kids at home and my grandchildren live with us as well. My husband works 7 days a week, 12 hour shifts and we live 2 hours from his work because we can’t afford rent closer to his work. We’re getting ready to lose everything. We have no food and can’t get help. I feel like a total failure because I can’t work and help my family. My husband and I would file for divorce if we could afford to. Depression is a real thing at my house.

    • Jane Akre says:

      Monica-

      I’m so sorry. Yours is an example of how life can tumble out of control after a simple “minimally invasive” procedure. It sounds like you need a mesh expert to do an assessment on your condition… Let us know where you are locate? janeakre@meshnewsdesk.com

      • Monica says:

        Jane,
        I am in Ohio between Cincinnati and Columbus. I live in a small town and the medical resources are slim to say the least. I’ve never even heard of a “mesh expert” or doing an assessment but I’m willing to do whatever it takes to have something better than what I have. The pain in overwhelming most days. Please let me know where I can find one of these experts.

        • Jane Akre says:

          You don’t say if you have insurance. Still here is a partial list based on recommendations from the mesh community:

          Dr. Charles Butrick in Overland Park, KS.
          Dr. Michael Hibner in Phoenix. (602) 406-6017. Dignity Health
          Dr. Raz, Urology Department, UCLA. 310-794-7700
          Dr. Lennox Hoyt, Tampa, 2 Tampa General Circle, 4th Floor Tampa, FL 33606 (813) 259 – 8500
          Dr. Christopher Walker in Orlando, private practice, UroGyn Specialists 407-648-9400
          Dr. Una Lee, 206-341-0560. Seattle, WA, Virginia Mason
          Miklos and Moore in Atlanta, 770-475-4499,
          Dr. Veronikis in St. Louis – 314-251-6753. (He works with Sara Wood MD, also doing pelvic mesh surgeries)
          Dr. Phillippe Zimmern in Dallas. U Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Professor Urology, 214-645-8765, 214-648-4765
          Dr. Michael Hibner in Phoenix. (602) 406-6017. Dignity Health
          Dr. Shlomo Raz, Urology Department, UCLA. 310-794-7700
          Dr. Daniel Elliott, Urology at Mayo Clinic, MN 800-446-2279, referring a pt 800-533-1564
          Dr. Ali Azadi in Louisville, Norton Healthcare, U of Louisville School of Medicine, Ob-Gyn, 502-409-5600
          Dr. M. Tom Margolis in SF Bay area, private practice, Bay Area Pelvic Surgery, 650-228-4052
          Dr. Bruce Rosenzweig, Rush University, Chicago, Ob-gyn, 888-352-RUSH (7874)
          Dr. Jerry Blaivas, New York City Urology, 212-772-3900
          Dr C. Y. Liu, gynecologic endoscopic surgery, private practice, NYC 212-988-1444
          Dr. Robert Furr, Women’s Surgery Center, Chattanooga, TN866-899-0679.

          Docs I’ve heard reports on:
          Dr. Robert L. Summit, urogyn, Memphis
          Dr. Val Vogt, Memphis
          Dr. Bob Shull, a urogyn from Temple, Texas.
          Antonio Pizarro. Shreveport, LA 318-221-0021. http://www.pizarromd.com/
          Dr. Speights of Jackson Mississippi.
          Tammy Jackson and Sheryl Teague like Dr. Sara Diaz of Richmond, Indiana
          http://health.usnews.com/doctors/sara-diaz-valentin-641082
          Nazema Siddiqui md
          https://www.dukehealth.org/find-doctors-physicians/nazema-y-siddiqui-md-mhs

          • Jojo C says:

            Dr Gregory Bales Advanced Urology In Chicago, IL. is amazing. He is the Professor of Surgery at University of Chicago and performs removals and reconstruction with your own tissues. I just had my Ethicon finally completely removed by him and then he did the reconstruction by using my own tissues..No more foreign mesh products.. 8 years of horrible suffering pain has gone away. I know the Ethicon mesh left me with some serious perm. scar tissue and holes in my vaginal area, but Dr Bales was able to repair the vaginal canal as well. I just thought I would share this brilliant Dr with everyone. I was lucky enough to see someone on FB one day talk about him.

            Jojo

          • Jane Akre says:

            Thank you Jojo…. always like to get new updates on docs!!!

    • SRankin says:

      Hi Monica, I am so sorry for all you are going thru with this mesh and trying to keep your head and your families heads above water. I read in your post that the bankrupcies in your past and that the settlement would go to that instead of to you, I have a bankruptcy and haven’t heard of anything about this.

  5. Monica says:

    What do “Mesh Specialist” do? I do have insurance through my husband’s work and I hope one of these doctors takes my insurance. I don’t know how I will get to any of these doctors but the one in Indiana is the closest. We have United Health.

    • Jane Akre says:

      I’m using that term to describe a doc who deals with mesh complications, a lot of them. Many docs say “you’re the only one” and attempt removals. Go to someone who sees many complications and has experience…

  6. Tammy says:

    I need help I have no health ins can’t work anymore how do I find what is going with my case please help if u can Been going on since 2009 case filed in 2013

  7. Monica says:

    I’ve been told by a representative of the law firm that both my cases have been settled but they don’t have an amount that they have settled for and that it can take up to 2 years before they will have that. Does this make sense? If the attorney agreed to a settlement why would he/she agree to an amount they don’t have a clue on what it is?

    • Jane Akre says:

      Sorry, I’m not a lawyer but no that doesn’t make sense. Two things are missing- an amount and your approval! Did you sign any agreement to settle? At all?

      • Monica says:

        I wouldn’t buy a house or car sight unseen and I definitely wouldn’t sign a settlement without knowing what the amount was. I don’t have a case number and even though I’ve heard other people having the same attorney as what I do and they’ve been successful in court cases, none of the settlement without knowing the amount makes sense to me.

  8. jan says:

    All our attorneys have let us down regarding the Mesh lawsuits
    They have lied to us on many counts they and our Judges have very much treated us unfairly. . Our attorneys have went behind our backs placed us in tiers and they are nit individual cases I do not care what they say we have been victims again to the justice system. . The attorneys have settled cases for there office on group settlements basically putting a loaded gun to us making us sign for what they fill is a great outcome yes maybe for them and of course there 40% per client. They will not be up front on the amount they settled for so they can devide how they want. .
    These judges are applauding these attorneys for putting more injures on us . We know longer live in a free country when judges. Attorneys can say and do what they want when it victimizes
    US even more.. over half of us will no longer be able to even be half the woman we were before our mesh.. alot of us will no longer be able to work again because of the mesh so we are now living below living standards making less than 1000 monthly because of the mesh
    And these manufacturers, judges,attorneys get to ho home to there 400 thousand plus homes. They get to drive there 100thousand dollar vehicles. . And most of us have had to sell everything we have owned to just make it through to a promise they have not kept for us.. how I pray everyday that God will see fit to take something away from each of these greedy , lying people if even half of them would lose there jobs and could not find another for 4/5yrs and maybe live on welfare they would see a little of what we have been a victim to..
    Sad

  9. Monica Atkins says:

    Jan,
    I totally understand what you are saying. We don’t know what is even going on with the case most of the time. The attorneys don’t give us regular updates because it’s easier to keep us all in the dark.
    I’m one of those women that can no longer work because of the mesh. I have a severe UTI again and can no longer see a doctor or go to the hospital because I’m running a fever of 102. The hospital is suing me for the 1500 that I owe them. Once my husband pays the rent, utilities and buys a little food which we still have to go to food banks because we are still raising children, there’s nothing left to pay them. It’s not that we don’t want to pay them, there’s just nothing left to pay them.

    • Jane Akre says:

      I’m so sorry Monica…. I understand d-Mannose might help with your UTIs…. Superior labs is a good one. It prevents the bacteria from sticking…

    • Kitty says:

      Just looking over your post Monica…it is heartbreaking. You Don’t say if u are self cathing. If u are…u will always have bacteria and infection. I had a horrible time when I was doing that. I don’t have cath anymore..but other problems. I know some ladies speak of this d mannose. and they say it works…so scrape up some cash and try it. The general approach to treatment does not work well because of the foreign body…but give it a shot…Heinz Sour Dills…pure cranberries and juice…H20. H20 Hit the infection hard with Cipro first. Go to another town hospital and suggest it to the ER MD.

  10. Kitty says:

    It is not fair. It reminds me of a biblical parable where some workers that only worked an hour were paid as much as workers that labored many hours. We have to accept that some of us will not be receiving the same amount of compensation…even though we may have suffered much more than some ladies that received much more than us. Our reward will be in heaven.

  11. Never the Same says:

    I am wondering if others that have agreed to settle are dealing with yet another form of run around. I only settled because they way Judge Goodwin is running the MDL I will most likely be dead before ever getting to court. That being said, I agreed to settled and signed the necessary documents with my attorney and am now being told. That we wait on the Special Master, I contact my law firm every month (Signed in June) only to hear more blah, blah, blah. Is anyone else experiencing this. I begin to doubt that I will ever see a dime. Who knows what they (attorneys, J&J, Special Masters) are doing. It is bad enough you can’t get a straight answer from the law firm about final amounts, now the delay, deny, and dispute. I think this is the master plan to just wear us down and out to where we just die. SO DISGUSTED.

    • Jane Akre says:

      This is a constant story – you sign in good faith and the settlement is in limbo. How many are experiencing this? In some cases I’ve heard of people waiting a year and still no word on the dollars coming forward. This does not seem to be in good faith, which is the basis of a legal agreement. Lawyers chime in here if you will……..

      • Caroline says:

        I am represented by Motley Rice and have a Coloplast claim. After months of leaving messages for an update I finally got a call back from a paralegal. She indicated to me that no funds have been released because they still have not met the 95% required threshold that is required for acceptance and that they are following up with clients who have not returned/accepted their settlement offers. It sounded like a big smoke screen to me. I agree with “never the same” that it seems as if the plan is to just wear us down so we give up. I was just referred by my Dr for a second posterior prolapse but it’s not as bad as my original prolapse which I had surgery for in 2009. At this point I am not sure that I even want to do anything about it because if the only option is more mesh – I think I’ll pass.

  12. Squeaky Wheel says:

    QUESTION for ALL: lawyers communication – or LACK THEREOF. I have had zero communication with my attorney in the past 11 months. I have asked for email and phone updates from the paralegal and she continuously says she has nothing new to report. In addition, they seem annoyed that I asked for an update.

    They are taking a huge percentage of whatever is awarded – customer service and professionalism is IN ORDER! Is anyone else being treated like dirt?

  13. Tami says:

    Jane;
    My case has been going on since 2012. I have loss of consortium; loss of job, loss of relationships with my children and husband. My right sides hurts unbearably, the drs here are not worth having. My main concern with writing tho is I just found out the 800 number I called 5 yrs ago was not even a law firm and I too; have agreed to the 40% thinking I was talking to an attorney. I literally just found out. Plz give me any recommendations you may have. I also have Boston Scientific mesh sling that could not be completely removed and there has apparently been a settlement but I too was told they don’t know how much. Thank you, I’m so worried that we won’t be rewarded the way we would have have I know I wasn’t even calling a lawyer in 2012.

    • Jane Akre says:

      Tami- Have you signed the settlement offer? Wait until you know the exact amount. That’s only fair. Try and renegotiate the 40%. That was the amount when law firms signed you up, they had no idea if they would litigate. Ultimately they lined you up to settle, which is way less work. I’m not a lawyer of course, but since things have changed since you signed up, and the law firm needs you to agree to the dollar amount before they receive any money, it might be time to seriously have a discussion with them. Five percent common benefit fund- have the law firm pay it… not you.

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