Law.Com reports that 2 Florida attorneys were disciplined for settling a big big case, and then agreeing to be paid not to take more cases.
"The Florida Supreme Court disbarred one plaintiffs lawyer and handed another a two-year suspension for taking a $6.4 million fee from the defense to file no more cases against E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co.
Roland R. St. Louis Jr. and Francisco R. Rodriguez of the defunct Miami firm of Friedman, Rodriguez, Ferraro & St. Louis had represented 20 clients suing DuPont for damages allegedly resulting from exposure to Benlate, a fungicide suspected of causing severe crop damage and withdrawn from the market in March 1991.
St. Louis, "the main strategist in the case," had DuPont in a difficult position. The trial court orally accepted a 110-page motion for sanctions for discovery abuse in the lead case, telling DuPont that it intended to sanction the company by striking its pleadings. The court encouraged it to settle the case, according to the high court’s opinion. Davis Tree Farms Inc. v. E.I. DuPont Nemours & Co., No. 1992-20006-CA-01 (Miami-Dade Co., Fla., Cir. Ct.).
DuPont eventually agreed to pay the plaintiffs $59 million if they would get the trial judge’s order vacated and sealed without publicity, settle 18 cases contingent upon the settlement of two key cases, and keep the settlement figures confidential, the opinion said.
At the same time, St. Louis and Rodriguez also agreed to a secret side deal by which the firm would receive a separate $6,445,000 fee from DuPont to refrain from further Benlate litigation against the company and to serve as counsel and/or consultants for the company in future matters, the high court said.
For the professional conduct rules violated in taking this fee, the state Supreme Court disbarred St. Louis and ordered him to disgorge $2,277,663, his share of the fee DuPont paid the firm. The Florida Bar v. St. Louis, No. SC04-49. Rodriguez received a two-year suspension, with a fee yet to be determined. Rodriguez could be ordered to pay as much as $1.4 million to the state bar’s Clients’ Security Fund. The Florida Bar v. Rodriguez, No. SC03-909. "