Judges Opinions, — August 22, 2018 10:00 — 0 Comments

Freddie M. Cloutier, by and through her attorney-in-fact, Lisa McCue, vs. HCR ManorCare LLC, et al; No. 2015-00470

Civil Action-Law-Professional Responsibility-Withdrawal of Counsel-Protection of Client’s Interests

Attorneys for Plaintiff initiated the instant litigation based upon injuries sustained by Plaintiff Freddie M. Cloutier while a resident at Defendants’ facility by filing a Praecipe for Writ of Summons. Plaintiff’s Attorneys have filed a Petition to Withdraw as Counsel, indicating that the Praecipe for Writ of Summons was filed to toll the statute of limitations while counsel conducted an investigation into the case and they no longer wish to proceed with representation of Plaintiff with regard to the case.

1. Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 1.16(b) provides that a lawyer may withdraw from representing a client if: withdrawal can be accomplished without material adverse effect on the interests of the client; the client persists in a course of action involving the lawyer’s services that the lawyer reasonably believes is criminal or fraudulent; the client has used the lawyer’s services to perpetrate a crime or fraud; the client insists upon taking action that the lawyer considers repugnant or with which the lawyer has a fundamental disagreement; the client fails substantially to fulfill an obligation to the lawyer regarding the lawyer’s services and has been afforded reasonable warning that the lawyer will withdraw unless the obligation is fulfilled; the representation will result in an unreasonable financial burden on the lawyer or has been rendered unreasonably difficult by the client; or other good cause for withdrawal exists.
2. Rule 1.16(d) indicates that upon termination of representation, a lawyer shall take steps to the extent reasonably practicable to protect a client’s interests including giving reasonable notice to the client, allowing time for employment of other counsel, surrendering papers and property to which the client is entitled and refunding advance payment for services and expenses.
3. In light of the fact that neither Plaintiff nor Defendants oppose the request and the litigation remains in its infancy without a complaint having been filed yet, withdrawal by Plaintiff’s counsel will not result in a material adverse effect upon Plaintiff’s interests with the proceedings stayed for sixty (60) days in order to afford Plaintiff the opportunity to obtain new counsel.
L.C.C.C.P. No. 2015-00470, Opinion by Judge C. Tylwalk, Judge, January 9, 2018.

IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS OF LEBANON COUNTY
PENNSYLVANIA
CIVIL DIVISION NO. 2015-00470

FREDDIE M. CLOUTIER, by and Through her Attorney-in-Fact, Lisa P. McCue v.
HCR MANORCARE, LLC; MANOR CARE OF LEBANON PA, LLC d/b/a
MANORCARE HEALTH SERVICES – LEBANON; MANOR-CARE HEALTH
SERVICES, LLC; MANOR CARE, INC.; HCR MANORCARE, INC.;HCR
MANORCARE HEARTLAND, LLC; HCR MANORCARE SERVICES, LLC;
HEALTHCARE OPERATIONS HOLDINGS, INC.; HEALTHCARE
OPERATIONS INVESTMENTS, INC.; HCRMC OPERATIONS, LLC;
HCR MANORCARE OPERATIONS, II, LLC; HCRHEALTHCARE, LLC;
HCR II HEALTHCARE, LLC; HCR III HEALTHCARE, LLC; HCR IV
HEALTHCARE, LLC; AND HEARTLAND EMPLOYMENT SERVICES, INC.
ORDER OF COURT
AND NOW, this 9th day of January, 2018, upon consideration of the Petition for Leave of Court to Withdraw as Counsel, it is hereby Ordered as follows:
1. William P. Murray, III, Esquire, Ruben J. Krisztal, Esquire, and Wilkes & McHugh, P.A. (“Petitioners”) are granted leave to withdraw their appearance as Plaintiff’s counsel;
2. Petitioners shall take all measures to protect Plaintiff’s interests in this matter by compliance with the mandates of Pa.R.P.C. 1.16(d).
3. All proceedings in this matter are stayed for a period of sixty (60) days in order that Plaintiff may obtain new counsel in this matter. In the event that no attorney enters an appearance on Plaintiff’s behalf during that time period, the parties shall proceed with this litigation in accordance with the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure.
BY THE COURT:
JOHN C. TYLWALK, P.J.

APPEARANCES:
RUBEN KRISZTAL, ESQUIRE FOR PLAINTIFF
JOHN SKROCKI, ESQUIRE FOR DEFENDANTS

OPINION, TYLWALK, P.J., JANUARY 9, 2018.
On March 18, 2015, William P. Murray, III, Esquire of the law firm Wilkes & McHugh, P.A. initiated this litigation by the filing of a Praecipe for Writ of Summons on behalf of Plaintiff. On November 4, 2015, Ruben Krisztal, Esquire of Wilkes & McHugh entered his appearance on Plaintiff’s behalf. On August 29, 2016, Attorneys Krisztal and Murray, and Wilkes & McHugh (collectively “Petitioners”) filed a Petition for Leave to Withdraw as Counsel. Petitioners explain that this matter involves injuries sustained by Freddie M. Cloutier while a resident at Defendants’ facility and that the Writ of Summons was filed in order to toll the statute of limitations while counsel conducted an investigation of the case. Petitioners further explain that, based upon their evaluation of the merits of Plaintiff’s claims, Plaintiff may have causes of action but that they do not want to proceed with Plaintiff’s legal representation.
On September 6, 2016, we issued a Rule upon Plaintiff and Defendants to show cause why Petitioners should not be permitted to withdraw their appearance in this action. Neither Plaintiff nor Defendants responded to the Rule. Defendants filed a Praecipe for Disposition of the Petition, the matter was listed for the October Term of Argument Court, and the matter is now before us for disposition.
Petitioners request permission for leave to withdraw pursuant to Rule 1.16(b) of the Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct, Pa.R.P.C. 1.16(b):
Rule 1.16. Declining or Terminating Representation
(b) Except as stated in paragraph (c), a lawyer may withdraw from representing a client if:
(1) withdrawal can be accomplished without material adverse effect on the interests of the client;
(2) the client persists in a course of action involving the lawyer’s services that the lawyer reasonably believes is criminal or fraudulent;
(3) the client has used the lawyer’s services to perpetrate a crime or fraud;
(4) the client insists upon taking action that the lawyer considers repugnant or with which the lawyer has a fundamental disagreement;
(5) the client fails substantially to fulfill an obligation to the lawyer regarding the lawyer’s services and has been given reasonable warning that the lawyer will withdraw unless the obligation is fulfilled;
(6) the representation will result in an unreasonable financial burden on the lawyer or has been rendered unreasonably difficult by the client; or
(7) other good cause for withdrawal exists.
Pa.R.P.C. 1.16(b). Petitioners have not set forth the specific factual reasons for their desire not to provide Plaintiff with legal representation, but confirm that they have notified Plaintiff of their intention to attempt to withdraw their appearance. Petitioners have also offered to provide the Court with the factual basis for their request at an ex parte in camera hearing.
Under the circumstances, we find no reason to conduct a hearing regarding the specifics of counsels’ request to withdraw as it appears that neither Plaintiff nor Defendants are in opposition to this request. In addition, this litigation is still in its infancy as no Complaint has been filed and it appears that nothing more than counsel’s investigation has transpired since the Writ of Summons was issued. Thus, we believe that Petitioners’ withdrawal at this juncture will not result in any material adverse effect on Plaintiff’s interests.
We further note that Subsection (d) of Rule 1.16 provides:
(d) Upon termination of representation, a lawyer shall take steps to the extent reasonably practicable to protect a client’s interests, such as giving reasonable notice to the client, allowing time for employment of other counsel, surrendering papers and property to which the client is entitled and refunding any advance payment of fee or expense that has not been earned or incurred. The lawyer may retain papers relating to the client to the extent permitted by other law.
Pa.R.P.C. 1.16(d). We will grant the Petition and direct Petitioners to protect Plaintiff’s interest by full compliance with these mandates. In addition, we will stay all proceedings in this matter for sixty (60) days in order that Plaintiff may obtain new counsel. In the event that new counsel does not enter an appearance on behalf of Plaintiff during this time period, the parties shall proceed in accordance with the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure.

About the author

Lebanon County Legal Journal has written 617 articles for Lebanon County Legal Journal

Search