Nearly everyone has probably been caught up in telling a little white lie once in a while. Those faux pas are often overlooked, especially if they haven’t caused any harm to anyone. However, a little white lie is hard to overlook when it turns in to a whopper and potentially impacts someone’s life. Just ask Philip Morell, a lawyer who found himself disbarred after lying to a client about settling his medical malpractice claim for $1.1 million; a settlement that never occurred because Morell had not filed the lawsuit on behalf of his client.
Mark Fink retained Morell to handle his medical malpractice case. Morell repeatedly told Fink the case was progressing and had provided periodic updates about the negotiations with the insurance carrier. Morell eventually told Fink he’d received a $1.1 million settlement offer. Morell had Fink sign a release and told him to go out and “purchase the car of his dreams”. Morell later admitted there was no settlement and he had not even filed the case.
The New Jersey Supreme Court ordered an immediate disbarment for dishonesty, fraud and deceit. Surprisingly, the Disciplinary Review Board's recommendation had been a two-year suspension. The fact that Morell had already served a one-year suspension for a similar situation most likely influenced the court’s decision.
Source: “Lawyer Disbarred After Telling Client Fish Story About Unfiled Case”, Michael Booth, New Jersey Law Journal, July 27, 2005, http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1122368711858