Don’t Hold a Client’s Settlement Proceeds Hostage

endorseThe Louisiana Supreme Court suspended Lake Charles lawyer Satrica Williams-Bensaadat for, among other things, refusing to endorse a settlement check in an effort to force a resolution of her fee claim. See In re Satrica Williams-Bensaadat, No. 2015-B-1535 (La. Nov. 6, 2015).

The respondent was fired because her client “believed that respondent had performed very little work in the matter.” A new lawyer took over the representation and settled the client’s claim. The insurance company then issued a check that included the respondent as a payee. The new lawyer asked the respondent to endorse the check so that the disputed attorneys’ fees could be deposited into the registry of the court. The respondent refused to do so, and instead, sued her former client.

In suspending the respondent for a period of one year, with six months deferred, the court ruled as follows:

[The respondent] improperly refused to endorse [the client’s] settlement check, which would have enabled [the new lawyer] to deposit the check into the registry of the court and invoke a concursus proceeding. By doing so, respondent delayed [the client’s] recovery of her settlement funds to protect her own interests. Respondent also filed a frivolous suit against her client to recover her attorney’s fees. The lawsuit was frivolous because respondent’s actions in failing to endorse the settlement check prevented the prompt resolution of the fee dispute via the concursus proceeding.

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