CHARLESTON - Along with a mild rebuke, a Calhoun County attorney has been ordered to compensate a New York woman who alleged he misrepresented her interests in a dispute over her late father’s estate in neighboring Gilmer County.
The investigative panel of the Lawyer Disciplinary Board on July 7 closed Marlea Cottrill’s ethics complaint against F. John Oshoway. Though the panel determined he committed no violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct, Charles J. Kaiser, Jr., the panel’s chairman, said Oshoway was wrong to charge Cottrill for work he performed after she dismissed him.
Along with an order to repay Cottrill $262.50 within the next 60 days, the panel instructed Oshoway, 61 and a sole practitioner in Granstville, to “take steps to improve his office polices and procedures,” with a warning that “any similar conduct in the future will result in sanction.”
In her complaint filed April 12, 2012, Cottrill, 52 and a Jordan, N.Y., resident, alleged after hiring him “in a panic,” Oshoway did little, if any work, to represent her interests in a suit to quiet title her brother-in-law, Michael Murphy as executor to the estate of her father, Willard, filed in Gilmer Circuit Court against Ruth Mitchell, Willard’s live-in companion.
Since he did not properly create a life estate for Mitchell in his will, the suit sought to have her evicted from the home she shared with Willard prior to his death on Oct. 20, 2010.
Despite not living on the property in Linn, and an heir to the estate, the suit named Cottrill as a co-defendant.
From the time she hired him in August 2011 until she discharged him seven months later, Cottrill said Oshoway failed to communicate with her about not only the status of the suit but also its implications. In her complaint, Cottrill went so far as to accuse Oshoway of engaging in “legal tomfoolery” for the lack of work he did after paying him a retainer of $2,000.
Cottrill said she kept abreast of the case via Mitchell, who forwarded her pleadings filed in case she received from her attorney, Dan Grindo.
Last August, Judge Jack Alsop granted summary judgment in favor of Mitchell, finding that Willard Cottrill’s last will and testament was clear enough that she was allowed to remain on the property as long as she desired.