Lawyer pursued future pain compensation for client who had died, ethics complaint says

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A Chicago lawyer sought compensation for “future pain and physical limitations” in settlement negotiations for a client who had already died, according to an ethics complaint.

Lawyer John Paul Kolb’s settlement demand for $245,000 said the client would likely suffer from “significant arthritis” as a result of his injuries, according to the May 5 complaint by the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission.

Kolb was aware of the client’s death when he made the settlement demand, the disciplinary commission alleges.

Kolb no longer had the authority to represent his client, Kyle Moon, after Moon died, the ethics complaint says. Instead, the client’s family would have to pursue a claim through a representative of his estate appointed by the probate court.

The insurer made a counteroffer of $50,000, and Kolb agreed to settle the case for $60,000, according to the complaint. Kolb sent an email to his employer, the Disparti Law Group, that read, “Settled $60,000. Client is dead from unrelated cause. Settled without adj knowledge of death.”

“Adj” was a reference to the insurance adjuster, according to the ethics complaint. The insurer later refused to settle when its lawyer received a settlement document indicating that the party entering the agreement was the administrator of the client’s estate, rather than the client.

The change to the document was made by Kolb or an employee acting under his direction, the complaint says.

Moon was injured in April 2016 while riding in a taxi that collided with another vehicle. His fee agreement with the Disparti Law Group provided for a contingency fee of 33.33% if the case settled and 40% if a lawsuit was filed.

Moon died in January 2017 from causes unrelated to the automobile crash. His mother notified the law firm of Moon’s death two days later.

Kolb did not immediately respond to the ABA Journal’s voicemail seeking comment. Online records indicate that he currently works for a different law firm.

Hat tip to Law360 and the Legal Profession Blog, which covered the complaint.

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