A recent Washington Supreme Court decision highlights the importance of a lawyer’s professional duty to act diligently.
In Disciplinary Proceeding Against Pfefer, the Supreme Court suspended a lawyer for failing to pursue a client’s case, failing to convey a settlement offer, and withdrawing without complying with applicable law. The respondent represented a client in a personal injury matter. He waited over a year to file suit, during which time he performed little or no discovery. After the case was filed, the respondent did not comply with the court’s deadlines and the case was dismissed. Despite the dismissal, the opposing party made an offer of settlement, which he failed to convey to his client. The respondent was able to get his client’s case reinstated, but then filed a notice of withdrawal “effective immediately.” The client tried to object to the withdrawal, but was unsuccessful. The case was subsequently dismissed and the statute of limitations ran six days later. In adopting the Disciplinary Board’s unanimous recommendation for a six-month suspension, the court noted that “[c]lients expect, and the RPC establish, due diligence by attorneys.”
The Washington Supreme Court has exclusive responsibility in Washington state to administer the lawyer discipline and disability system and to maintain appropriate standards of professional conduct. The Supreme Court issues written opinions in disciplinary cases it considers. To read other recent written opinions, visit the Supreme Court page on the WSBA website.