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Milwaukee lawyer accused of keeping $25,000 settlement secret from client

A Milwaukee lawyer could lose her law license for six months for keeping a $25,000 insurance settlement secret from her client, among other misconduct violations.

The Office of Lawyer Regulation charged Coral Dawn Pleas of Pleas Williams with eight counts of misconduct related to her handling of a client’s two personal-injury cases.

The client signed a contingent fee agreement with Pleas Williams in 2014, which provided for a one-third contingent fee for all money recovered as part of the case. She also signed a second agreement for representation in a 2015 accident.

Pleas settled the woman’s property-damage claim for the 2014 accident for $7,396 and settled the personal-injury claim for $25,000, which was the insurance-policy limit.

Pleas deposited the $25,000 in her client trust account, but the complaint said she never told the client or the client’s medical providers that she had received the settlement. A few days later, Pleas allegedly transferred $23,000 from her client trust account to her business checking account. The complaint said she then withdrew nearly $21,000 from her business account.

In the following months, Pleas transferred almost $7,000 more from her client trust account, leaving it with a balance of 35 cents, the complaint said.

The OLR accused Pleas of not taking action on the client’s second personal-injury claim, allowing the statute of limitations to expire.

By January 2018, the client’s health insurer had paid more than $38,000 for medical expenses related to both accidents. Pleas negotiated a reduction of the entire medical lien to $8,333 and sent the client a letter enclosing the release of claims, a settlement statement and a settlement check for $8,333. The settlement statement reflected that Pleas kept $8,333 in attorney’s fees.

Shortly after, the client’s new attorney sent Pleas a letter requesting the name of her errors and omissions carrier. The complaint said Pleas then apologized to the client for her handling of the case, refunded the attorney’s fee and agreed to pay off the $8,333 medical lien.

The OLR is asking the state Supreme Court to suspend Pleas’ law license for six months for her misconduct and require her to pay $8,333 in restitution to the client’s health insurer.

Pleas did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


About Michaela Paukner, mpaukner@wislawjournal.com

Michaela Paukner is the legal reporter for the Wisconsin Law Journal. She can be reached at (414) 225-1825 or by email at mpaukner@wislawjournal.com.

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