By Angela

The First Lawyer – Scott Fagan

Angela sat in the office with Dr. Slaughter, the chiropractor, and suddenly broke into tears. “I’m sorry. I’ve been worried about so many things. The kid who hit me has the same insurance company that I do. I’m worried they might decide not to fix my car.”write note

Dr. Slaughter handed her a tissue. “Sounds like you need a lawyer. Do you have one?”

“No. I’m not sure who to call.”

“I know someone who handles personal injury lawsuits. His name is Scott Fagan,” said Slaughter as he looked through a file and started writing on a piece of paper. “Here’s his name and phone number. I’ll call him and tell him to expect your call.”


man on phone2(About 6 weeks later)

“Angela, this is Scott Fagan. Your Med Pay check just came in. I need you to come over to the office and sign it over to Dr. Slaughter,” said the attorney.

“I-e-e-e c-c-cn’t dr-dr-dri-ive t-toooo fffffff-far,” stuttered Angela. Her speech had gotten much worse. It was an effort to try to get a sentence out.

“No, problem. I’ll drop by your home so you can sign it,” replied Fagan.

“NNNooo,” said Angela. “Pp-pppput in m-m-m-mail.”

There was a pause. “I’ll mail it to Dr. Slaughter and you can stop by his office and sign it,” said Fagan.

Angela was confused. She already told him it was difficult for her to drive. “NNNNOOOO!!! Dr-drrrrive t-t-tttooo hard! M-m-mail m-mmmmee!!!” she said, as she began crying.

“Okay, I’ll get that mailed out today,” Fagan said and then hung up.

Two days later, Angela received a phone call from the chiropractor’s office. The office manager said that her Med Pay check was there and they needed her to come in and sign it over to Dr. Slaughter. She told them that she had told the attorney to mail it to her directly, not to Dr. Slaughter. They needed to mail it to her!

Now she was angry. Something wasn’t right.

First, Angela called her insurance company and asked if there was a reason why they sent the Med Pay check to her lawyer instead of her. The woman was very hesitant to speak to her; she said Angela’s lawyer had instructed them that they were not to speak to Angela. Angela asked her to answer a general question – Did the insurance company typically send their client’s Med Pay check to their attorney? “No,” replied the woman.

Next, Angela wrote a letter to Scott Fagan. She had a lot to say to him and wanted to make sure that her interactions with him were documented. Besides that, writing was so much easier than trying to talk with the difficulty she was having with stuttering.

First, she asked about when she signed papers with him, had she given away her right to decide how the Med Pay check was to be distributed? Her family doctor had been treating her as well as the chiropractor, and she didn’t think it fair that the entire check was signed over to him. And why did he send the check to the chiropractor’s office, after she specifically told him to mail it to her?

Another burning question she had: How qualified was he to handle her case now that she had been injured in the accident? He had pushed the insurance company to fix her car – they had wanted to total it. But the money she would have received would not have paid off her loan. And she would not be able to get another car since she did not have a job. But now she had some very significant health problems from the accident, including a possible brain injury. How qualified was he to handle her case now?

The last question she had was – Why wasn’t he talking with Dr. Martin, her family doctor of 13 years? He had several conferences with the chiropractor and the psychologist Dr. Slaughter had referred her to, but not once had he talked to Dr. Martin. She asked him to please write back to her instead of calling her; she got confused when talking on the phone and often forgot what was said.

A feeling of distrust, confusion and fear spread through Angela. Not really knowing whether anything could be done, she needed more information and help figuring out what to do. Perhaps Karen, a woman who was a paralegal and had been her client in the TMTL program might be able to help.

Karen was helpful. She told Angela to contact the state bar association how to find out if this lawyer had any complaints or actions filed against him. Next, she explained that lawyers will often write off the expenses of a case if they have not put a lot of time and money into the case (i.e., before they start discovery). Discovery is an investigation that is conducted before the trial which can involve requesting records, sending written questions called “interrogatories,” and conducting depositions where lawyers ask questions of various people involved while a transcript is written by a court reporter. Karen said she would check around and see if any of her contacts knew anything about Scott Fagan.

The next day Karen called with information she had found out. According to her contacts, he had been sanctioned once. He also tended to take on a high number of clients, do as little work as he could and settle as quickly as he could for as much as he could get. Basically, he cared very little about doing a good job for the clients he represented.


Firing the First Lawyer

Angela thought at first that she was probably in too deep to do anything about her lawyer. But from what Karen had explained, the attorney had not even started discovery, so he didn’t have a lot of time invested in her case, yet. The next step was going to be a little tricky. According to Karen, Angela would need to get the following items from him:

1) A letter which states she did not owe him any money. A lawyer might be inclined to cut his/her losses and write off the costs if he hasn’t done too much with the case. Otherwise, he might place a lien on the case; if that happened, other lawyers would not even consider taking her case.

2) a description of everything that has been done on her case, and

3) all of Angela’s records and documents.

Angela’s father drove her to attorney Scott Fagan’s office. Despite still having difficulty with her speech, Angela decided it was best for her to speak to Mr. Fagan alone; she was afraid her father was so angry that he would end up punching him. Scott motioned for Angela to come into his office and have a seat.

“How can I help you today, Miss Cramer?”

“I’d like three things from you today. A letter stating that I don’t owe you any money, a description of everything you’ve done on my case and all of my records and documents,” said Angela with considerable more speech difficulties than reflected in this with crossed arms1

Fagan’s jaw dropped in disbelief. He laughed and said, “And just what makes you think that I would agree to writing such a letter?”

Angela could feel her heart beating nervously. She didn’t know if she could pull off obtaining these 3 items, but unless she did, she knew she was in a bad spot, being stuck with a lawyer who was questionable with regards to his ethics and clearly not capable of handling a more complicated case involving brain injury. “I have concerns about how you’ve been handling my case. I feel that you’ve placed one of my care providers’ interests above my interests as a client. If I don’t receive this letter, I will take up the matter with the bar association.” Since he already had one sanction, she hoped he would not want any further complaints.

“All I have to do is write a letter saying that you’re crazy and have dreamed up some wild conspiracy theory,” retorted Fagan.

Angela tried to stay focused on her goal of getting that letter from him and told herself to resist getting pulled into a name-calling match. Try to keep it simple, she said to herself. “Well, Mr. Fagan, you do what you feel like you need to do, and I’ll do what I need to do.”

His face was flushed with emotion as he got up and paced. “I’ve never been fired by a client before! This is outrageous!”

“I’ve never fired a lawyer before. So we both are having a first experience,” Angela said.

He continued to get worked up, pacing about his office, picking up things and flipping them across his desk. “If I write this letter, I’ll withdraw all my letters of protection to your treating medical doctors and you’ll have all kinds of collection agencies calling you, demanding money,” retorted Fagan. “It won’t be pretty.”

Angela wondered what he was trying to do. Bully her into staying with him? She had concerns about him and he obviously didn’t like her very much and thought she was ‘crazy.’ Why would he still want to work with her and serve as her lawyer, she wondered. “Like I said, you do what you need to do and I’ll do what I need to do.,” Angela said to him.

He was clearly caught off guard. “You’ll need to write and sign a statement that you are terminating our lawyer-client relationship.”

“That’s fine. Do you have paper and a pen? I’ll do that right now.”

“This is incredible. You’ve got some nerve, lady,” replied Fagan angrily.

“And so do you, Mr. Fagan, for placing your chiropractor friend’s interests above mine. What do you need this letter to say?”

Fagan rattled off a statement, which Angela wrote and signed. “And when will you have the other 2 items ready for me?”

Fagan continued to pace. His face was really red and he seemed like he was going to explode at any moment. He stormed out of his office and was gone for a few minutes. Angela wondered what was happening. Just sit tight, she told herself. It’s almost over. Finally he re-appeared and said, “Come back in an hour. JoAnn will have the letter and other things for you at the front desk,” said Fagan.

Angela took a deep breath of relief and said, “Thank you, Mr. Fagan.” She walked out to meet her father’s questioning looks. He looked even more worked up, angry and ready to punch Fagan. She wondered what might have heard. There was a flurry of activity going on in the front office.

“Everything’s fine. I can get my records and other things in about an hour. Let’s go now,” she said to her father. Once they were in the car, she told him what happened. He relaxed and gave a little laugh saying, “I don’t think he knew he was up against, even if you do have a brain injury and have a hard time talking!”

Angela smiled to herself. That was one of the few times her father openly expressed pride in who she was as a person.

© Angela Cramer, 2009

Photos are the property of Jupiterimages made available through subscription:
© Jupiterimages Corporation, 2008-2009 Photos are not of the characters in the story. While the events are real, names have been changed.


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