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Is it ethical for an attorney to withdraw from a client's case two months prior the expiration of statute of limitation?

Carrollton, TX |

I hired an attorney to represent me in a personal injury case related to fire incident that occurred in my residence due to negligent act of my next door neighbor. As a result of that accident I have sustained physical and emotional damages. In addition, I just recently had been diagnosed with a breast cancer. At the present time I am undergoing not only the treatment for my injury from the fire incident but chemotherapy as well. My attorney was well aware of my ongoing medical treatment situation. Nevertheless, he withdrew from the case without any sound explanation. Right now I am looking for an attorney who is willing to represent me.

Attorney Answers 6

  1. It can be difficult to find a lawyer to handle a case that close to limitations, so it may be negligent to withdraw that close. It really depends on what happens and whether you had a winnable and collectable claim to begin with. You must do everything you can to find a new lawyer to file the lawsuit, or the old lawyer will claim you did not try hard enough. Good luck.

    This is not legal advice. You should always discuss the specifics of your issue in person with an attorney. Be aware that there are time limits on all claims that depend on the kind of claim, so do not delay in seeking an attorney.

  2. Doubtful that you have a claim. You can ask the atty to prepare a lawsuit for you to file representing yourself, in case you cant find someone before the statute runs. If he wont, you might find someone else who would at least do that. You have 2 months which should be enough time to find someone. Make sure you have the entire file from the prior atty, so new atty can review whats been done.

  3. Maybe -- find another attorney now and deal with the fallout from prior counsel's withdrawal therafter. I wish you luck. Do not drag your feet!!!

    In no way am I offering you legal advice, and in no way has my comment created an attorney-client relationship. You are not to rely upon my note above in any way, but insted need to sit down with counsel and share all relevant facts before receiving fully-informed legal advice. If you want to be completely sure of your rights, you must sit down with an experienced criminal defense attorney to be fully aware of your rights.

  4. Unfortunately, many lawyers do this. Try to get another lawyer asap.

  5. I agree with the other responses and write separately only to confirm that even if one assumes for present purposes that your attorney did act unethically, that does not eliminate your legal obligation to "mitigate your damages," meaning that you must take all steps reasonably possible to avoid or limit your damages flowing from the attorney's acts. In this case, clearly that would entail making all reasonably possible efforts to secure a new attorney or, failing that, filing suit yourself before the statute of limitations expires, thereby "buying more time" within which to find a new attorney.

  6. As I understand it, your question is more about legal ethics than anything else. I have, therefore, taken the liberty of changing the practice area you specified to ethics/professional responsibility.

    If you will review the contract you signed when you hired the lawyer, you will probably find a clause that provides that the lawyer may withdraw with impunity, even without good cause, on reasonable notice. Of course, nothing in the contract can trump the ethical rules that govern Texas lawyers. Texas Disciplinary Rule of Professional Conduct 1.15(b)(1) prohibits a lawyer from withdrawing if the withdrawal cannot be accomplished without material adverse effect on the interests of the client. At this point, your interests have not been materially adversely affected by the withdrawal because there remains plenty of time for you to hire new counsel before limitations runs. Of course, whether or not you hire a new lawyer and when is entirely up to you. However, you would not have a viable ethics complaint if you did not make a determined effort to hire a new lawyer and ended up with limitations barring your claim.

    I wish you the best of luck in finding a new lawyer.

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