CHARLESTON – A Logan County attorney faces disciplinary action for not only his failure to communicate with clients regarding their cases, but also with the subsequent ethics panel inquiry.
The Lawyer Disciplinary Board on Dec. 20 filed a two-count statement of charges against Michael A. Esposito of Logan alleging seven violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct. According to the statement, Esposito first failed to take any action in two unrelated personal injury suits, then ignored answering the allegations against him.
A statement of charges acts like an indictment for disciplinary purposes.
Similar cases, similar inaction
According to the statement, Retonda L. Dingess and Melissa Curtis filed complaints against Esposito in their respective cases with a month of each other. Dingess first filed hers on Sept. 13, 2010, followed by Curtis on Oct. 5.
In her complaint, Dingess alleged she hired Esposito to help her file a suit seeking damages from injuries she sustained in an automobile accident. Neither the date of the injury nor when she retained Esposito is stated.
Nevertheless, the statement maintains Dingess made multiple attempts about the suit as doctors treating her where threatening to turn her over to a collection agency for unpaid bills. When he did not return her repeated telephone calls, Dingess filed her complaint against Esposito with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel.
According the statement, ODC sent a letter via regular U.S. Mail to Esposito on Sept. 14, 2010. When he did not respond to it, ODC sent another one both regular, and certified mail on Oct. 8.
Though the one sent certified mail was returned on Nov. 1 marked "Returned to Sender," the one sent regular mail was not.
In her complaint, Curtis met with Esposito a week after she and her husband were involved in an automobile accident in February 2009. They asked him to file a suit seeking money to pay for repairs to their vehicle, medical bills and lost wages.
After a follow-up appointment two weeks later, Esposito said he would be filing their lawsuit in "'a few days time.'" Attempts to meet with Esposito again were unsuccessful as he would "either cancel, reschedule or not show up for an appointment."
According to the statement, Curtis said she and her husband terminated Esposito as their attorney in February 2010, and asked that all records they gave to him be returned. After multiple attempts, Curtis said she finally reached Esposito who said he was in the process of closing his office and "was 'not allowed' in the office unless his brother, who is also an attorney, was present."
According to the statement, Esposito's brother, Thomas, was disbarred by the state Supreme Court in January 2006. Regardless, Curtis said Michael gave her Thomas' home and cell numbers.
It is unclear if Curtis attempted to call him.
The day after receiving her complaint, ODC sent Esposito a letter asking him to respond to her allegations. When he did not respond to it, like in Dingess' case, ODC sent a follow-up letter dated Nov. 4 both regular and certified U.S. Mail.
Again, like with Dingess, the certified letter was returned, but the one sent regular mail was not. On an unspecified date, ODC subpoenaed Esposito to provide them certain documents which he ignored.
The statement accuses Esposito of violating Rules dealing with diligence, communication, declining or terminating representation and Bar admission and disciplinary matters. The Board first on March 15 in Charleston then again on May 17 in Logan held evidentiary hearings on the statement, and is soon expected to release its findings, and suggested sanctions the state Supreme Court take against him.
West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals case number 10-4018