Vega v. Academy Express
Justice Jack Battaglia
Attorney Lamonsoff moved for release of money previously payable to his client, Vega, noting he was unable to locate the client. Vega previously sought to recover damages for personal injuries. The action was settled and monies distributed, with $31,180 remaining in counsel's escrow account to deal with an asserted lien by a physician. The motion was previously denied, but upon renewal, the court noted counsel demonstrated due diligence in attempting to locate Vega, and did not request added compensation or reimbursement. Counsel now sought an order authorizing payment of the remaining balance of the settlement proceeds to the Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection. The court noted there is no statute or rule addressing specifically the fund's receipt of money belonging to "missing clients"; the rules deal only with claims for reimbursement of losses caused by dishonest lawyer conduct. The court said that despite the apparent gap in statutory treatment, it saw no basis for not following the explicit direction of the Appellate Division that funds of missing clients be deposited with the fund subject to the further order of the court for disbursement sought by the client or third parties asserting an interest. Thus, it granted Lamonsoff's motion.