What can you do when your lawyer ignores you? 6

After my February 17 conversation with Dinkes & Schwitzer’s Marc Mauser, during which he told me a copy of my file was ready to be picked up (as I had demanded in a letter to Bill Schwitzer), I got very busy with the Skush-O’Brien lawsuit, now in its deposition stage.

But it was on my mind to remind Marc that in that letter to Schwitzer I had asked to see a draft closing statement. So yesterday, Leap Year Day (I hope this doesn’t prove to be ominous, such as “Oh, let’s just leap right over Naomi again”), I e-mailed Marc:

Before I set a day with you for picking up my file, I do want to see your settlement cost breakdown, the one you’ll be using to file the OCA statement. You can attach it here, if you like, or mail it, but I do want to see before I pick up the file.

This is a mere 24 hours later, so I’m not shocked I haven’t yet heard from Marc. So while we’re waiting, why don’t I explain the references to OCA statements and settlement cost breakdowns?

The “OCA” is the Office of Court Administration. In the remote case that you’ve asked yourself the question, “Does anybody oversee what lawyers do?” the answer is, yes. And the OCA is one of those overseers.

At the beginning of a case, lawyers are required to file an OCA Retainer Statement, and at the end a Closing Statement. [The forms I’ve linked to were the ones I had in my hard drive at the law firm; OCA may have tweaked its rules or forms since then, but I’m pretty sure they still require lawyers to file such statements.]

Although the settlement breakdown that will be used on the Closing Statement can be fairly complex, it won’t be in my straightforward case. So without precise numbers—the ones I’ve asked Marc for— here’s what I will expect to see in the settlement breakdown:

Gross amount of settlement: $30,000

Less lawyers’ costs and expenses:

  • The fees for filing the case in the Supreme Court and fees for serving the complaint on the defendants;
  • The court reporter fee for taking and transcribing the deposition of the defendants (since I wasn’t told about or invited to this deposition and don’t know how much time it took, I’d better not see a big charge here. If there is one, I will request to see the actual invoice, and I will compare the time spent to the actual deposition testimony — a copy of which I have insisted on getting in my file);
  • Some miscellaneous other charges, such as copying costs (they’ll be charging me for copying my file), mailing costs; and whatever else.

After subtracting these costs from the gross settlement amount, they will have the net settlement amount. This will be divided thusly:

  • one-third (33-1/3%) to Dinkes & Schwitzer;
  • two thirds (66-2/3%) to me. But from my share, Medicare will be reimbursed for the costs they paid in care for my broken metatarsal. So after they repay Medicare…

What’s left over is what I get.

Although there’s no requirement to send a client the OCA Retainer Statement (the client should get the lawyer’s retainer statement, although as I’ve told you previously, I didn’t get mine until a year or so after I signed it and had to call Dinkes to ask a paralegal to send it to me), there is a requirement that the client be sent the OCA Closing Statement. Indeed, the OCA statement itself requires the lawyer to state the date the client was sent the statement.

So what I’m asking for is, simply, advance information about the settlement breakdown, the info I’ll eventually be receiving in the OCA Closing Statement.

Well, OK. I feel I’ve spent my waiting-around-to-hear-from-my-lawyers time wisely, informatively. So now let’s go back to waiting around to hear.




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