Two San Antonio lawyers are on trial over claims that they pocketed most of a $100,000 settlement that should have gone to a client.
Isabel Sloan of Lufkin says Oscar Gonzalez and Eric Turton are both liable for the money, which came from a probate case in which she is an heir.
At a minimum, a lawsuit by Sloan says, Gonzalez was negligent because he failed to supervise the foreseeable actions of a problematic lawyer he shared client fees with.
“I was really traumatized by the whole ordeal,” Sloan said during a break in the jury trial before 408th District Judge Larry Noll.
Turton was disbarred in August over the matter by the Texas State Bar’s disciplinary arm. The bar found, among other things, serious violations of rules barring the personal use of money obtained for a client’s trust account.
It was the latest discipline doled out to Turton, who has a history of reprimands and suspensions that include misusing clients’ money.
In the Sloan case, Gonzalez washes his hands of Turton, who rented office space from him for more than 20 years and shared half his earnings from clients that Gonzalez referred to him.
“She’s not (Gonzalez’s) client,” said Gonzalez’s lawyer, Phil Watkins. “We believe Mr. Turton misled her, and he misled us.”
Turton, whose testimony was shown to jurors from a previous video recording of a deposition, later declined comment to a reporter.
Sloan’s lawyer, Carl Kolb, said Gonzalez’s own notes document that he met with Sloan, though Gonzalez does not recall the meeting and claims he’d never heard of Sloan until 2010, when she complained.
The lawsuit says Gonzalez referred Sloan’s case immediately to Turton, though she was led to believe she had hired Gonzalez.
In his testimony, Turton said he shared half the fees he collected with Gonzalez, even if Turton did all the work. That, the lawsuit claims, is a clear violation of rules establishing pay comparable with the work performed.
“If you hire a law firm, you’re entitled to believe it’s going to back up the conduct of its lawyers,” Kolb said.
Lawyers on trial over alleged $100,000 theft
October 8, 2012
San Antonio Express News