On November 30, 2011, the Georgia Supreme Court disbarred Thomas C. Sinowski and Steven F. Freedman and removed their names from the rolls of attorneys licensed to practice law in the State of Georgia. The Georgia Supreme Court adopted the special master’s findings of fact that these attorneys paid “runners” (non-lawyers who recruit, recommend or direct people to the services of a given lawyer in return for a fee or other compensation from the lawyer) from April 1995 through April 1999 to secure clients. Under O.C.G.A. 33-24-53(a), lawyer shall not compensate a person or organization to recommend or secure his/her employment by a client (excluding bona fide lawyer referral service).
According to the Supreme Court Order, Thomas C. Sinowski and Steven F. Freedman kept a running record of illegal payments to runners in a “Runner Book.” Thomas C. Sinowski and Steven F. Freedman admitted to paying 46 runners the total amount of $276,025.00. The State Bar of Georgia contended that Thomas C. Sinowski and Steven F. Freedman paid 54 runners for the total amount of $399,733.00 in 1,376 separate cases. According to the Supreme Court, a non-lawyer by the name of Robert Gorgoglione handled the arrangements of paying runners and working with chiropractors to secure clients.
The Review Panel of the State Bar of Georgia found that Thomas C. Sinowski and Steven F. Freedman “engaged in improper solicitations based on a selfish motive to obtain clients” and that “the solicitations were part of an organized scheme that lasted for two and a half years.” Despite these findings, the Supreme Court noted that Thomas C. Sinowski and Steven F. Freedman showed no remorse for their illegal and unethical behavior. As a result of their disbarment, Thomas C. Sinowski and Steven F. Freedman are required to immediately cease the practice of law in Georgia and notify all clients within thirty days of their inability to further represent them.
Granted, the practice of personal injury law in Greater Atlanta is highly competitive; however, that is no excuse for such illegal conduct and the use of runners. Despite these two lawyers being disbarred, there are other lawyers in Atlanta and throughout the state that are willing and do utilize runners. I have practiced law for over 19 years in this state and I have not nor will I ever use a runner to obtain clients. Over this same time period, I have had many satisfied clients who have provided me the ultimate compliment: a new client referral. The way to build your personal injury practice is through hard work, dedication and following the mandates of the law.
I have had numerous clients report to me that illegal runners have contacted them on the date of their car accident or shortly thereafter by phone and claim that they were or could refer them to a chiropractor and/or attorney. This communication by the runner is improper and possibly illegal. Further, if the insurance company determines that a claimant has treated with a health care provider or has engaged the services of an attorney through the efforts of a runner, you can best be sure that it will have a negative impact on the settlement value of the personal injury case.
If you believe that you have been contacted by a runner in regard to your personal injury case, then please report it immediately to the State Bar of Georgia at (404) 527-8700 or (800) 334-6865. Please note the time of call, the runner’s phone number and any and all communication.
If you or a loved one has been the victim of a personal injury in the state of Georgia, then the Law Offices of Kevin C. Ford can help steer you through the legal maze; investigate the cause of the accident; and help you achieve a judicious result.
The Law Offices of Kevin C. Ford is currently accepting personal injury cases throughout Georgia. Please contact us today for a no risk consultation to discuss your case in detail. Our office will cover the costs of pursuing your case and if there is no recovery, then there is no fee.